Rumors have been circulating lately about the pending introduction of the Apple TV (not to be confused with the actual current product, AppleTV). Apple has been amazingly disruptive in digital media – just look at the iPod! But, I don’t think that strategy is going to work with television.
Don’t get me wrong – I love Apple. I use a Macbook Pro and an iPhone every single day. But here’s the thing about television: the only differentiator anymore is content. Sure, you can get 120Hz or 240Hz, or even some gimmicky version of an 84″ 3D TV, but you know what I want on my TV? It’s really pretty simple: good shows and movies, when I want them, including the live stuff. Will Apple be able to deliver?
Apple: Think Different?
I recently bought a TV, and consciously chose to buy now, rather than wait.
As I said, hardware is no longer a differentiator. As long as you’re at 1080p, and 60Hz, the other differences are largely academic. It’s been suggested that the human eyes can’t tell the difference between 720p and 1080p, and little content actually takes advantage of the full resolution.
The things that matter are what’s on the TV. I purchased a Vizio, which can stream content from Netflix, Hulu+, and AmazonPrime without any additional hardware or fees on top of my existing accounts with these services. I don’t need any management software (like iTunes) and I don’t need to sync anything – each service remembers what I watched and on what device. I can stream music from Pandora (sorry iTunes), and view pictures from Flickr. I can read Twitter and Facebook, though it’s admittedly clumsy. I can even get weather and traffic.
What will Apple offer?
The rumors - for what they’re worth - indicate that Apple will be releasing a 32″ and 37″ set with iOS software and streaming capabilities. Is this really just an embedded AppleTV inside a Studio Monitor? There are rumors that we’ll see Siri used to control the interface, and even some rumors that distribution deals with major networks might be signed.
Apple has been making the “AppleTV” for years, but it only really works when you’re completely iOS dependent. If you like to use other, non-Apple services, you’re largely out of luck. Yes, it can stream Netflix, but no Hulu+ or AmazonPrime. Yes, it can view photos on Flickr, but no Twitter or Facebook. Will consumers settle for this device in the future? Or will Apple expand their offerings to meet the demands of the market?
Recipe for Success
The only way I can see an Apple TV in my future is if it does, indeed, connect to those places I already source my content from: Netflix, Hulu+, AmazonPrime, and ESPN.com. If I have to do the obnoxious “rent a movie for a set period of time and watch it within 24 hours” plan that is currently used on iTunes, I’m out. If I can’t input other devices (like my computer or a gaming console) to stream the few things I can’t find on the big services, I’m out. If I have to use some sort of shared account like iTunes to facilitate content, I’m out.
The bar is high, it’s possible, but I’m not hopeful that Apple will clear it. Yes, they found major success with iTunes and the iPod, but television is a different game entirely. Competing with OnDemand, streaming services, torrents, Boxee/Roku, and video game consoles like Microsoft’s XboxLive and Sony’s PSN means that consumers have lots of choices, and if they can’t find their content on their current platform, they will go to one where they can.
Apple’s been amazing at capturing consumers, though they have had their stumbles (anyone remember the Apple Pippin?). I have no doubt that television is a market ripe for disruption, though I have some reservations as to whether Apple is the company to do it.
Are you buying an Apple TV? Why or why not? Share your thoughts below!