Apple will reinvent television

“There is re-invigorated conversation around Apple and its Apple TV efforts in light of Steve Jobs’s comments to Walter Isaacson that he has finally cracked the TV interface,” Ben Bajarin writes for Tech.pinions. “And now again with recent Wall St Analysts voicing their conviction that 2012 will be the year of Apple TV. We all know Apple wants a play in the television arena. Apple TV is still a hobby to them but at some point in time Apple TV will become a business and a healthy one at that.”

“Much of what is happening around the web, and with other pundits, feels very similar to the time prior to Apple launching the first iPhone and fundamentally re-inventing the smartphone,” Bajarin writes. “In fact my father provided the media with a quote about the first iPhone that circulated widely. Rather than call Apple’s first iPhone a smartphone he called it a ‘brilliant phone’ (see: Analyst: Apple iPhone should be given its own category – ‘brilliant phone’ – January 9, 2007)… In the year leading up to the first launch there were mockups, hype, rumors, speculation, skepticism, optimism, and then one day it was unveiled and none of the hype could do it justice. It helped us re-imagine what a pocket computer should be and I would argue Apple continues to do so with each new iPhone.”

Bajarin writes, “Predicting exactly what the disruptor is proves more difficult than knowing which areas of the industry are ripe for disruption. Television is ripe for disruption and I believe Apple will be the one to do it. So rather than predict how, I would rather point out where some of the opportunities may lie… Re-inventing the TV experience has to be more than just TV programming. Re-inventing the TV will require turning the TV into a platform to deliver rich content, new software, interactive programming and more. The opportunity is to turn the TV into a “platform” similarly the way PCs, smartphones, and tablets are platforms… In time Apple will not just show us a smart TV they will show us a brilliant TV and in the process re-invent TV.”

Much more in the full article here.


  1. I am 100% skeptical that Apple can / will come out with a full TV set and that it will be successful.

    I love Apple and aapl but I just don’t believe even Apple can be successful (units and profits) in the TV biz.

    1. Andy Inahtko has already talked about this, and he’s very insightful… People don’t swap out TV’s much. They just don’t. It makes more sense to just do a little cable box (current Apple TV)… I know Apple will work out all the kinks, I just don’t know what the value proposition is on an Apple Cinema Display with built in iOS box.

        1. I’ll match my Mensa card with yours any day, bot . . . and there is plenty of TV well worth watching. (Don’t look now but your magisterial hubris is showing.)

          1. Please don’t use the ‘mensa’ card – it’s not an argument – all those guys on wall street and big banks have mensa cards too, and look what they did, and are doing. If you ask those guys who was to blame for the depression, no one was including them. Of course, we will never hear ‘I made a mistake, I did things wrong’ from anybody who actually caused the mess.

    1. You know what’s funny about that?
      More and more people are switching to mobile computers (laptops)… which leaves the iMac in a very strange lonely position.

      How about this… everyone.. .for your computing needs.. just get a laptop… for your TV watching needs.. get an iMac.

      Imagine gutting the iMac, dropping a DVD/Blueray player in there.. and an iOS chipset. Start with 20″ 30″ and 40″ screens.

      1. Who watches TV on a 20″ these days? I came to DC thinking I didn’t really need a TV, but I broke down and bought a 12″ B&W portable for my then small apartment. Then a 19″ color. Then a 27″, and later another 27″. Now I’m using a 42″ plasma (720p sadly). Yeah, I could take my 20″ LCD monitor and feed it from a set-top box to watch TV, but I wouldn’t enjoy it.

  2. I sure hope they can do something. Right now, the UI for satellite and cable set top boxes is freaking terrible. Slow, cumbersome, hard to find shit, just an overall pain in the ass. If they can manage to replace that, I’m all in, and anything else above that (apps, iTunes, etc.) is gravy.

    1. I agree. I was just talking to a friend of mine about how awful the UI on cable is. He said that he liked it just fine. I replied that if he was satisfied with THAT, then there was no hope for him. The saddest part of that story is that he owns an Apple TV, so he knows how much better it can be.

  3. Apple will be skinned alive, boiled and roasted, and eaten for lunch if it enters the TV market. How many $99 Apple TVs have been sold? Apple won’t release figures but I’m betting on 2 million. That’s a $99 box. How many will Apple sell for $1,500? Probably PlayBook numbers…150,000 over 8 months…with a $800 million write down in inventory, every quarter…

      1. Me too. I making a wild guess here in that what Apple comes out with it will be spectacular. With all of their cash they can afford to do something especially ….One More Thing.

        1. Not just one…I’ve been examining some of the patent filings that Apple is using to paper the path to the future…they seem to be mining the literature of Science Fiction for ideas.

    1. To the majority of people, Apple TV has no clear mission. It’s a little of this and that. Pretty cool for the $99 bucks, but still a hobby-level product. Most people have a difficult time describing what Apple TV brings to the table. I don’t believe Apple expected it to sell like gangbusters — but it engaged them in the game and the industry — and I think it has earned them points.

      You cannot compare Apple TV to a potential iTV. Very different beasts. I’m betting that iTV — be it a TV or a box — will be a focused product that consumers can wrap their heads around. At which point — if we’re lucky enough to witness a game-changing product — kaboom.

    2. You are absolutely right there’s a price point where consumers is willing to pay for a product. Look at the Mac’s, it’s not a runaway success in term of volumn but they are making money. TV business has been saturated to a point there’s one in every living room where little profits is being made.

  4. I don’t care how well Apple TV will hear my voice commands, it comes down to one thing…

    content, content, content

    Apple has announce commitments from content providers that finally breaks the cable monopoly. That’s it will get really disruptive.

    1. I think, in terms of content, live sports is over looked… not just live sports, but live sports free of black out restrictions. Perhaps live (and maybe even local) news. TV shows seem easy enough to do (Hulu, Netflix, iTunes, etc all have this) but the live events are what seem to keep a lot of people tied to cable.

  5. If they think that a Siri controlled TV will be a good idea then they’re idiots.

    You’ll still need an external box for the bulk of content, and you’ll still need a remote for that service. Accordingly the only controls you’d use on a regular basis are the volume and changing inputs. Not a huge amount Apple can do to improve that.

    Beyond styling, the only thing they can really do without access to all content is to add a better quality display. Other companies could have done that but even with better quality choices now people tend to buy the biggest/cheapest screen they can (or can’t) afford. Just having Apple on it is unlikely to make people spend more.

    On the interface side, having something built into the display won’t make it work any better than the existing Apple TV could.

    Personally I think the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch and Airplay are Apple’s way in. Make the tv just like a monitor for your iOS device.

    1. I agree with the comment that inroads of iOS devices provide for ease to looking at the tv as a simple monitor. This porting of ios maybe the more immediate apple tv response by incorporating games, apps, etc to take market share from wii and redefine social gaming.

      As far as Siri controlled TV, I’ve obviously never used one, so the jury is still out. I thought Jobs was crazy for not including a tactile keyboard on the iPhone having come from a blackberry yet now I can hardly remember using one.

      Display quality will have only relative additive value in the minds of consumers given that standards of HD are much higher relative to just 2 years ago and studies show most consumers cannot consistently dicern between 720p and 1080i programming.

      If a new tv does make its way out of Apple expect huge loyalty from apple users yet without live events (sports and news content) it’s just a cooler connected device.

      If you want a game changer then Iger (Disney) should license ESPN for IP delivery without a cable contract. He sits on the apple board and outside of conflict of interest, apple had the deep pockets to make ESPN think twice about protecting per sub cable revenue and do something truly revolutionary.

  6. It’s more like when AAPL took over the mp3 market. Margins were small. But AAPL dominated and thrived because, concurrently, they developed iTunes. To be successful, and I think they can be, AAPL must develop “iTV”, a cable-TV killer, while it revolutionizes the television itself.

  7. Somehow with all that has gone on, I keep thinking Apple has to enter the high speed bandwidth market somehow to enable all its equipment and software to be ubiquitous.

    I’m not going to guess how, but I will not be surprised with the cash they have on hand and the opening in the last large consumer electronic hardware market looking just like it did in the 1990s.

  8. While I believe an Apple television with full access to all the services available to the current AppleTV, using the new Siri voice interface would be a kicking product, there are two major roadblocks standing in the way of its success. First, no cable operator is going to provide backbone services to provide gobs of bandwidth bypassing their own TV services, and will throttle it the moment they discover it happening, and secondly, just which media content providers are going to sell Apple their wares threatening the sales they currently have with cable and satellite providers?

    While I would love to have a video service that permitted me to pick and choose the channels I like to watch, and only pay for those, while accessing all my iTunes/regular AppleTV stuff, and using Siri voice control, I don’t see the incentive for either the backbone or content providers to allow Apple that opportunity.

    Until that nut is cracked, what’s the point of a cool Apple television? In the interim, I’d be happy with just a new generation AppleTV with Siri voice control.

    1. Can you say Apple Satellite?

      I estimate around four-billion and Apple could launch a state-of-the-art Hughes satellite system and jump right ahead of Dish and DirecTV in terms of tech advancements, and totally side-step the cable companies who are tethered to the ground by wires.

      The Europeans, and even the Russians have a market for enterprise to launch rockets capable of Deploying two satellites in each payload.

      I figure about four sats would cover the spread.

      Imagine satellites bearing giant Apple logos, that take the walls of Apple’s walled garden into the statosphere!?

        1. Content is easy, it’s the delivery mechanism that will make or break this deal.

          The content providers don’t care how you get their stuff as long as they are paid fair and square. HBO and Comedy Central don’t have the means to get the programming to you, they rely on the cable/satellite companies, who have been abusing their positions for too long.

          HBO is an ala carte channel and would be one of the first to sign up and others would follow, that I have no doubt.

          It all depends on what Apple has in store for a conduit. What could they use as an alternative to cable?

          1. HBO is owned by a cable company.

            To the OP: satellite is a stupid gambit. Über-expensive, very short lifespan. Completely senseless. Anyone who throws investment money in this direction is either trading on the inside, or an idiot. (Sorry, but that is the harsh reality.). Military-scientific is the only scenario where costs matter so little that satelite can be “justified” – think of the space shuttle for all those years. Bulk of their missions were military.

            Last thought: what seems to be the real elephant in the room regarding Apple TV vs other options? NO FREAKING COMMERCIALS! This is what sold me, this is what cancelled my cable tv sub (tho I upgraded to their best business class Internet service) and this it how I promote the Apple TV to acquaintances with a clear message. Add commercials back in and my Apple TV (and Netflix sub) goes straight to the garbage heap.

  9. If Apple does something, in won’t be just a television. It will be a new device that’s a center for information/knowledge in the home, a telegnositc or TG if you will.

  10. Let’s get one thing straight: AppleTV (current box version) is NOT a “hobby,” as Steve Jobs stated to deflect attention from it.

    AppleTV is a full-on public research project. It just hasn’t been officially recognized as such yet. Apple has been researching and testing content delivery, including negotiating content agreements with the movie and TV industry, which are nowhere near as hard up for distribution as the music industry.

    WHEN (not if) Apple releases a full Apple TV, it will so integrate content delivery that its advantages and revolutionary capabilities will be overlooked, more like the iPod or iPad than the iPhone. People will actually have to see it in use to believe how much it will change their lives, what they watch, how they watch, and what information they receive via the Apple TV.

    Sell your Netflix and Blockbuster stock now, while you can still get some money for it.

    1. Apple TV is a hobby.

      It was reduced to such because Steve Jobs was too far ahead of the curve to pull off what he wanted to bring to market.

      Perhaps his first instinct was to create a television with the heart of a computer, but the materials just weren’t availble in the market, and he wasn’t getting the cooperation of the content providers.

      Perhaps his engineers, or maybe Cook said, why let all that work be shelved when what we have coukd easily slip inside a breakout box, so let’s go to market with what we have?

      In any case, Walter Isaacson should have answered this question about this hobby business. He was absolutely not the right guy to write the definitive Jobs bio.

    1. No. First of all, we can forget about content delivery over wireless, it sucks too bad as it is and would be even worse if the carriers weren’t making us pay a premium for what little bandwidth we do get.

      ATT charges me ten-dollars per GB when I exceed my 4GB limit!

  11. Apple will get it right. They know a lot more about it than we do and that’s why we’re only speculating on a forum such as this. We all remember all the doubters before the iPhone came out: “There’s no money to be made with cellphones. Margins are razor thin. Nokia is too entrenched. Apple will get skinned alive. The phone industry is all owned and run by the carriers. Blah-blah-blah…”

    Of course, the TV industry is totally different but Apple actually has a lot more leverage than it did back in ’07. Apple has so much more money, power and influence now. The timing is ripe for a change. We can only see a tiny percentage of what’s going on behind the scenes. Seriously, we’re really nothing more than Monday morning quarterbacks here.

    Apple will come out with a new HDTV line. If Apple doesn’t do it someone else will and Apple won’t let that happen. Google, Microsoft, and Samsung are also feverishly working on TV stuff to define it as a digital platform. TV is very important. Personally, I don’t even have cable service and use ATV2 to watch a few movies and documentaries a month. But, the average American watches around 4 hours of TV per day.

    And then there’s Asia and Europe and other developing markets. So many of us in the US only think of only our immediate locale and the rest of the country but remember that the US’s population only accounts for around 4% of the world’s. The growth potential that China and India offers is mind-boggling. These two countries combined they represent nearly one-third of the world’s population.

    The world is actually a lot bigger than we tend to think. Apple isn’t a niche company making niche products anymore and has to think and *act* big on a global scale. The digital convergence of computer, communications and media has been going on for sometime now and it will fully integrate whether we like it or not.

    TV is the last holdout as it’s a major mess, but it will get dragged into digital/internet integration whether the TV world likes it or not. Platform and ecosystem players like Apple, Google, Microsoft and even Samsung (who’s busy developing and marketing Bada as well for their smart TVs) have really no choice but to get into it and try to untangle the mess.

    Google failed badly with their first attempt. But you know they’ll try over and over again. So will Microsoft. So will Samsung. They will work on integrating the TV to *their* platforms and ecosystems, not Apple’s. Apple needs a dominant presence on the TV side of things in the future and a little black hockey puck isn’t the answer. It’s only a transitional project – a learning curve, if you will, for Apple to go through.

    We don’t know what Apple will bring out but Apple has to get in the TV sector in a big way. Things are in place now for Apple to make the move and it’s obvious that Apple is very serious about it too. Apple is an interface and ecosystem/platform provider. The TV is the last big interface device left and then Apple will keep working on extending their interface devices and ecosystem everywhere else.

    It’ll take time and it’ll be unlike any other industries that Apple has dealt with but Apple has plunged into complete different industries before: music (iPod as consumer electronic devices, iTunes music distribution), telecommunications, movies, publishing, retail, etc. Apple has learned a lot and is still learning. I believe they’ll get it right.

    1. I agree with what you’ve said.

      Apple will do television but, only if it can do it right. The time for excuses like hobbies (beta) is done. Your lengthy comment is pure forward-thinking rhetoric, nothing anyone who saw Apple’s claim to the living room didn’t see coming.

      The cable companies will not allow Apple to marginalize their programming schedules, advertising monopolies, while circumventing their cable offerings using a shared conduit.

      I don’t care how “brilliant” Apple’s television is, without content or a way to deliver it, it will fail in revolutionizing television viewing.

      Otherwise, if Apple is going to produce a television with a built-in tuner that is cable-ready, sure, they’ll sell a few million, but that’s it, and they will suffer a similar experience as Microsoft’s XBox did in its infancy.

      Microsoft had to go live; build an online community, like iTunes Store, to build interest in the platform and is totally reliant on third-parties to provide the conduit. Without broadband, the XBox platform is only half as good.

      Without the RDF in Apple’s corner, who’s going to mezmerise the middlemen who provide the means to bring content to the Apple television?

    2. I definitely agree, and would guarantee that Apple enters this market in a big way.

      You have 3 factors to the success:
      1.) Content creators – Fox, ABC, HBO etc
      2.) Content providers (ISP) – Comcast, CenturyLink etc
      3.) Apple

      Content creators are ripe for change assuming they make as much money, or more. Has anyone used the ABC App on your iPad?

      Not all content providers do both ISP and Cable bundled. There are several ISP’s that would love to stream content over the internet that wouldn’t worry about cannibalizing their Cable ecosystem.

      Apple has all the technology needed to make an amazing Apple TV, they have most of the relationships, they just need to bring it all together and launch it as a full solution from day one.

      Product: imagine if every content creator had an App built into the Apple TV? Think about the ABC App only with live streaming content? Now you buy, and pay monthly 2-5 bucks per channel. I would gladly pay the same amount of money monthly to Apple for less channels, but better content than I do to Comcast today. You would no longer need a DVR because you could always access the catalogue of shows and stream it again at a later day. There, you just killed Comcast, and the DVR. Plus you cut out the middle man. Where would all that content sit, Apples massive data centers. Now you have iTunes for iTV. The ISP’s become dummy pipes for streaming content.

      Now that you have a iTV App store what else is possible.

      Games: I have an iphone, I have an iPad, and millions of people have ipod touches. You could almost instantly kill off xbox, playstation & Wi by allowing games to run/stream directly from to your TV.

      But what else?
      Siri – this has been discussed at length
      Built in camera: now you have iMessage built into your TV (did you say Skype app?), Back to the future all over again. Heck, put in two cameras and you kill off Msft Kinect and you no longer need a game controller to use iTV for gaming.

      I think Apple has every opportunity in the world to dramatically change the way we think about TV. Nobody could imagine the iPhone before it launched and the TV is the same way.

      Apple also has the money, the supply chain, the stores, & the customers to make this successful. Yes they will be expensive, but you need to factor in the Total Cost of Ownership for the TV, Cable bill, and even a gaming console to have a fair fight. They will be an absolute steal for $2000 and because Apple manages the supply chain better than any company in the world they will make a ~40% profit margin. Even if they sell just a million of them we’re talking a billion dollar business.

      Apple could even buy every cable provider, now what?

      Think outside the box, that is what Apple will do.

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