Why Apple will build a TV in 2010

Those who know me well have heard me rant about this before, but I’m going to make it official now.

I think 2010 is the year Apple will launch a TV, not another version of the boring Apple TV box to put under my TV, but an actual, sexy as hell, aluminium cased, thin-as-a-macbook-air, 47″-50″ TV with the iTunes store fully integrated.

I mean think about it. If you were a company who sat on top of…

1. The iTunes store full of TV content.
2. The Apple TV hardware and software.
3. A large screen monitor manufacturing line

…and your corporate strategy was to compete with superior vertical integration between hardware, software and content, (UPDATE! See discussion in the comments section below on why I think this is so valuable) price dumping the non-differentiable content and charging high margin on the differentiated hardware, it would seem almost unavoidable to put 1 inside 2 and then 2 inside 3, slap on a slick, touch based (think magic mouse) remote and voilà, you have a spanking new vertically integrated and very high priced piece of hardware to sell.

So to me the interesting question isn’t why they would build it, but why they wouldn’t.

The missing link is of course a DVB software, Elgato (with their EyeTV) would be a good acquisition target IMHO.

C’mon Steve, you own my cell phone and desktop, now go for the living room, I want my Apple TV on the wall!

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01 2010

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  1. Henrik Nyblad #

    Ja, ge oss en sådan. Intressant tanke, lockande som få.

  2. 2

    I’d rather see them concentrating their efforts on an Apple TV 2.0 with increased support for 3rd party apps. Everyone’s got a TV/screen but almost noone has got a htpc/similar system.

    Imagine an Apple TV box with support for 3rd part apps like spotify, hulu, youtube, svtplay etc. Apple’s strength has always been the software in combination with hardware and the rest of the apple ecosystem anyway, not a lot of software in screens they can improve.

    • Gustav #

      @Fredrik Thanks for the comment.

      You’re preaching to the choir regarding 3rd party support, especially Spotify ;-) I would expect that Apple would try to build an applications ecosystem for a potential TV platform just like they have for the iPhone, probably letting developers use the same code base they have for the 100k iPhone apps to get critical mass quickly, but offering a UI framework class adapted for a 10 foot experience, and a version of the iTunes store that can be navigated and let’s you install apps via a remote control, without need for a mouse or keyboard. I think that’s pretty much what you’re saying as well, I’d just like to see it inside my TV, highly integrated into the TV and the remote control, rather than as a separate box, with a separate remote (that doesn’t have the TV controls) and a TV software that is just layer on top of a full OSX, requiring me to still use mouse and keyboard quite often to get things done.

      Regarding the fact that everyone already has a TV/screen, and a box should be enough, I don’t really agree. I’ve been playing around with lots of HTPC solutions the last few years, the current one (which I’m the most pleased with) being a passively cooled HFX Classic HTPC with a FireDTV DVB-T tuner and elgato EyeTV software and 50″ LG50PC1R TV (chosen because it allows DVI over HDMI with arbitrary solutions that pixelmap 1:1 to the screens pixels, rather than interpolate to the nearest HDMI resolution, giving perfect resolution) , streams to your airtunes, re-encodes and syncs TV shows to your iPhone, and even let’s you stream live and recorded TV to your iPhone when you’re travelling. It’s a fantastic solution and it is what the living room TV experience should be like, and still, very very few people I know, even in the geek crowd, have this solution. Why is that? I think it is because no one has properly packaged this into a single product yet. A product that you plug in and switch on. I certainly spent considerable time to get this up and keeping it running.

      I think Apple has a golden opportunity to create such a product and increase the consumer reach of advanced HTPC/TV solutions at least 1-2 orders of magnitude (just like they did with the smartphones when they introduced the iPhone).

      Regarding innovation in TV screens, I would say that I think the UIs and software of most TVs and set top boxes today are pretty terrible, so there is plenty to do on that level alone. But looking a bit deeper, I think that it is easy to underestimate the value of really good integration between the different hardware and software pieces. I’m generally a big believer in vertical integration. If you control the viewing experience all the way from content (encoding formats, resolution etc) to the software running on the hardware (OS and applications), to the screen and TV hardware (graphics acceleration, built in camera, IR “wiimote” transmitters etc), all they way to the layout of the remote control (think e.g. Wiimote pointing device plus swipe gestures to switch between channels, apps etc), you can probably create a really kick-ass user experience that is very hard to do if all the different hardware pieces are manufactured by different companies and have to be interopable according to standards (the windows world). It is very hard to innovate whey you only control a singe horizontal step in a vertical chain…

  3. 4

    I’m totally with you Gustav. Controlling everything gives you a chance to create a far way better experience, and I think user experience is the most important thing on a product. Before the iPhone 2G, we already had smartphones with 3G, touch screens, gps and pretty much everything else the iPhone had.

    So why so much interest in a 400$ phone plus a lot more for the service? The experience kicked everybody’s ass and still does, I think there are only 2 other players fighting back the iPhone, and those are Google’s Android and Palm. Although I think palm’s hardware is crappy, I think the overall experience is much better than an Android.

    By the way, Nokia lost it. If I were them I’d buy palm.

    • Gustav #

      Thanks for the comment Pablo. Agree with you on mobile. Apple, Android, Palm all have interesting (and different!) approaches that could work. Apple controls the full vertical to offer great integration, Android does the OS play, aiming for reach across devices and being more open. Palm is the closest rival to Apple in UX but also has an interesting differentiation in their Javascript based (webOS) application approach that lowers the barrier to write apps vs Objective-C, Java etc (maybe giving them a good chance to catch up in the app race). I also think Blackberry has done a great job in traversing from being only a corporate to being a consumer device using an awesome email experience as their spear head and sales prop.

  4. 6

    Oh, and I forgot. That’s also why Spotify has so much success as well. It’s much easier to use than it’s competitors and more intuitive, for example you may not know the name of an album but if you know the artist you may remember the cover, and so on.

    I’d tweak it a little bit though. For example, if you search for an artist like for example… “Dream Theater” it should return the artist page instead of lists of songs related to Dream Theater.

  5. Kent Thorén #

    Another piece of the living room is a decent sound system, controlling that and integrating it with the content clients in the same unit, possibly within a TV format might be something?

  6. Per #


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