While I’m a big Apple fan, I’ve never been interested in the long-rumored Apple television. I have a nice, high-quality, flat screen television that’s wall mounted. It’s only a year old and I really have no interest in replacing it. Plus, I have an Apple TV connected to the television so I can access all of my content.
Rumors have kicked up again with lots of speculation. An Apple TV connected to the Apple ecosystem. Plus Apple’s AI, Siri built right in. Ask to watch “Pawn Stars” and it starts playing. Apps are the new channels…
While I think most pundits believe Apple is working on a television, many are skeptical if an Apple TV will be successful. How will it work? How will Apple get people to pay more for a television? What will the remote look like? All good questions. And the ecosystem created by cable companies, studios and networks is so complicated and interdependent, it seems like a tough sell for Apple.
Adding value with Siri
What kind of value could Apple add to a television that would motivate buyers to upgrade. I can think of a few ideas and they all rely on Siri.
Omnipresent Siri. A voice interface makes a lot of sense with a television. But the nice thing about Siri included on the TV itself is that it would be available regardless of which input was being used. Watching something on cable on input one and want to know what the weather is going to be, ask Siri. This is completely different than having an Apple TV plugged into input three (like I do). This is also why I think Apple will slowly phase out the set-top box concept for the Apple TV. When you are just an input, you have no real control.
Helpful Siri. Because Siri is omnipresent, it could also manage certain tasks for you. “I want to watch TV” or “I want to watch a DVD” can switch inputs for you effortlessly.
Now most of you are probably scoffing at the idea of needing help to switch inputs, but for some people (specifically my in-laws when they come to babysit) figuring out how to switch inputs can be challenging.
The rest of you are scoffing at the idea of Apple allowing me to plug in a Blu-Ray player or cable box. But I don’t think Apple would have a problem including HDMI ports on the television. I’m sure they want you to use the Apple ecosystem, but they need to allow consumers (and cable companies) time to transition.
I’d expect HDMI ports, but no additional integration. Yes, that would mean no voice-controlled cable TV guide. (And the pundits will scream about that.) You’ll be able to use voice controls to look for content from the Apple ecosystem, but the cable box becomes just another dumb input.
Siri and Facetime. Siri on a TV might sell with geeks. Facetime and Siri on a TV will sell to grandparents. Plus it’s right out of science fiction. “Siri, I’d like to talk to my grandkids…” And there they are. Lots of problems with this, for example a) where do the cameras go since TV’s are mounted at all different heights; and b) what do you do when the kids have completely destroyed the family room and you get a video call. But despite the issues, I honestly think it would sell Apple televisions.
Will an Apple TV sell?
Would these features make me run out and purchase an Apple television? Quite frankly, no. But I do see the potential in them and I could see buying one someday. I’m not so unhappy with my home setup that I’m actively looking for a solution.
Plus a lot of the commentary from John Gruber and other Apple writers is spot on. The television market is a challenging market to approach. It’s not as easy as bolting the internet to a TV.
However, this is the type of market that Apple excels in. No one was really had a massive problem with MP3 players when the iPod was launched. No one was begging for a touch screen phone. There wasn’t huge consumer tablet market before Apple created it with the iPad. And no one really has a massive problem with the current TV market. If anyone can figure out the right features to disrupt the television market, it’s Apple.
One more thing to note. If these features are based on Apple technologies like Siri and Facetime, none of the current TV manufacturers are going to be able to compete for a long time. They aren’t in the business of innovating with software. They can make their product cheaper and they can add hardware features like 3-D. But they don’t build anything to compete with Siri or Facetime. Which means they’ll go running to Google and Microsoft to provide competing solutions.
I don’t know if an Apple television will be successful, but it will absolutely be interesting.