Apple Television? No. Apple TV? Yes, yes, a thousand times yes!

The Wall Street Journal finally (hopefully?) ended the era of dumb Apple-idiot-box rumors last night,” Brian Barrett writes for Wired. “The WSJ patiently explained that Apple abandoned any HDTV plans well over a year ago.”

“This isn’t to say that Apple didn’t explore the possibility of making a television set. It certainly did, as the WSJ and others have pointed out over the years,” Barrett writes. “But experimenting with new products is far from actually putting them on shelves — especially when that product has virtually no upside to a company that values little else.”

“It’s not impossible to make money selling television sets, but it is very, very hard. More importantly, it’s not the kind of money Apple likes to make,” Barrett writes. “The company’s projected gross profit margin for 2015 is bumping up against 40 percent, four times what a television typically commands. And thanks to sluggish iPad sales, it’s found out the hard way that products with long lifespans don’t look so hot on its earnings reports.”

MacDailyNews Take: Thanks, actually, fundamentally, to how well Apple builds iPads. They last and last and last. That’s why sales are “sluggish.” Sluggish is a relative term, of course: Appel sold more iPads in the last 90 days than Microsoft sold Surface tablets, ever (including all of the freebies they send out to be iPad shields on TV studio desks, NFL sidelines, etcetera).

“In a world where television sets are so thoroughly commoditized, there’s simply no killer feature Apple can provide that makes it worth the trouble. Even Munster, the Don Quixote to Apple’s HDTV windmill, has finally admitted as much, saying in a note to clients that he ‘incorrectly assumed that a combination of Siri, FaceTime, a TV app store, and PrimeSense based motion control could be compelling enough as a unique feature set for the device,'” Barrett writes. “Besides, Apple already has the perfect path into your living room. It has Apple TV.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Gene Munster wasn’t the only one who “incorrectly assumed that a combination of Siri, FaceTime, a TV app store, and PrimeSense based motion control could be compelling enough as a unique feature set for the device.” Apple did, too.

Claiming that “An Apple HDTV Never Made Any Sense” as this Wired article is headlined is ludicrous. At one point it made sense even to Apple, which undertook the R&D project in the first place.

As with many products, some of which we’ll likely never even hear about, after doing their due diligence, Apple said “no.”

People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully. I’m actually as proud of the things we haven’t done as the things I have done. Innovation is saying no to 1,000 things. ― Steve Jobs

Related articles:
The ‘Apple Television’ lesson: You can’t hurry R&D, you’ll just have to wait – May 19, 2015
Gene Munster gives up the Apple Television ghost – May 19, 2015
Behind Apple’s move to shelve their UHD TV project – May 18, 2015

14 Comments

  1. Apple cannot do it today, but Apple is ultimately a hardware company. Apple may be laying the foundation for an eventual complete “Ultra HD” Apple TV set with the rumored “Internet TV bundle.” Today, the profit in TV is from TV service. Later, it can be from TV hardware. This is how it may happen, and the obstacles that currently prevent it…

    Apple opens the Internet TV service this summer. Its success is sufficient but limited, because many customers suffer from government-sanctioned monopolies that allow artificially bundling Internet service with TV service. These regional monopolies (on use of the existing “data pipes”) were establish long before people’s access to Internet broadband became a consideration. So the first obstacle is “unbundling” Internet service from TV service, so that typical customers can affordably buy high-speed Internet service from one provider and TV service from a a different provider (such as Apple).

    The second obstacle is advancing the Internet infrastructure for typical customers, to allow Internet-based (HD) TV service on a large scale, especially if that service eventually goes to some “UHD” standard.

    If those obstacles are overcome, Apple’s Internet TV service can become successful on a much larger scale. And THEN, Apple has the justification to create the COMPLETE Apple TV. The Internet TV service is the key. By creating a customer base that pays a monthly subscription, Apple has the means to partially “self-subsidize” the higher cost of a meaningfully better TV that is sill profitable (by Apple’s standard), while pricing it at an upfront cost to customers that matches or beats the competitions’ “dumb monitor” TVs. Since Apple controls its own TV service, Apple upgrades it to fully support the higher resolution of the UHD Apple TV from Day One. Thus, Apple again has a highly profitable hardware product that provides unique value.

    1. The prototyping would hav Bernard doe ifically signed at comparing to and moulding the box I would say, only by experimenting can you properly assess the correct solution. I’m sure if things change and a TV solution starts to have legs it could re emerge into a shipping product but unless there is massive negativity from TV manufacturers or others I can’t see what that would be. But then that’s the point of keeping things on the back burner, environments can change.

    2. Apple has always been about making the user experience better whenever it introduces a new line of products (with a few exceptions in the pre “dark days” era such as Pippin, QuickTake, etc.). Examples of this are numerous: Apple ][, Lisa/Macintosh, Newton, OS X, iPod, iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch. If you look closely at the whole product, you’ll notice that moving the user experience forward was the primary goal — not selling more hardware (with maybe the exception of the Apple Watch Edition).

      We only have to go back to Steve Jobs’ comment in the 1980s that when people turn on their TV they turn off their brains but when they turn on a computer from Apple they turn their brains on. (I don’t have the exact quote handy.) Nothing about that has changed in the past 30 years.

      Apple did investigate doing its own television. However, contrary to MDN’s take, this does not mean that Apple thought it would become a product line for Apple. What it means is that Apple thought it was worth investigating. Thinking something is worth investigating is a very far cry from thinking it will be a major product line. Assuming anything more than that is just making things up.

      While it is possible that Apple will someday do a stand alone Apple Television, I find it extremely unlikely. Apple would have to find some way to vastly improve the user experience to make it worthwhile. Combining Siri, FaceTime, a TV app store, a TV subscription service, and PrimeSense just does not get Apple there. If, miraculously, Apple could to a shift of tectonic proportions in the user experience as Apple did with the iPhone, then maybe, just maybe, we’ll see an Apple Television. Otherwise, pairing a vastly upgraded AppleTV with a high end television will get you everything people are clamoring for with regard to an Apple Television.

      1. QuickTake was one of the earliest Digital Cameras.
        I am so happy Apple took this direction and provided it to customers. It showed the wave of new to come. Happy also Apple got out of the Digital Camera arena. They – and their partners – as the QuickTake was a joint venture… Apple partners when it can not do certain things – naturally.

        Anyways.. the Dark Days of Apple still offered some fantastic things.. NEWTON and QUICKTAKE were quite cool.

    3. Thats a reasonable analysis; the problem for Apple has changed in recent years as other vendor’s make TVs and boxes with much of the functionality that a full atv could potentially offer over its rivals. Also the 1080p/4k situation is still in flux, particularly in respect of streaming provision and codec development. The battle surely is with content, and apples ability to create a middle ground. Rather than this also ran $30-$40 subscription service, I’ve always felt that Netflix have ploughed their own $8 furrow quite effectively, whilst on an international platform, and is only a modest evolution of apples current content provision. Tether this to a device, say a router/Apple TV hybrid which can compete with rival boxes on apps and Homekit control I believe they could move the device firmly from hobby to viable product. Then as you say a TV in a few years. Although I don’t know why apple couldn’t just make a 40-50″ dumb monitor with a variety of inputs/outputs that could work in tandem with an enhanced atv box, since most video is consumed online these days a tuner is less of an absolute necessity. This next box will be a step in the overall progress of the atv idea.

  2. One of my favorite pastimes is to go back through old Wired magazines and count how many things they predicted correctly. I’ve never needed more than one hand per issue, and in most cases I haven’t needed any hands.

  3. “TV” has lost 50% of its viewers over the last dozen years.

    Apple will not merely invest in delivering the “old TV model.”

    Both the hardware & software will have to be something that matches the future of video.

  4. It’s a lot easier to swap out a set-top box every 1-3 years, you might even be able to leave the original cables. But a T.V. is not something you’re going to want to replace every 1-3 years. Even financially, it’s easier to just replace a set-top box. It’s $100 for a new Apple T.V. and over $1000 for a smart T.V. .

  5. The article makes the same two points I’ve been making since the idea of an Apple HDTV first floated by: margins on TVs are too small for Apple to be bothered, and a $99 product is much more upgradable than a $2000 (or more likely $5000, cuz why not?) Television set.

    1. Smart TVs compared to a Non Smart TV no matter what brand you check… the electronics embedded into these Smart TVs to be of Apple TV like… amount to 50 – 80 bucks. The television in the 2000 – 5000 range are 4K quality or exceed 50″ screens.

      The software on Smart TV, there are upgradable.

      What i find fascinating here is… your topic leads into Headless Apple computers. Almost saying a Mac Pro without a Monitor is better since You can keep the monitor and upgrade your machine.

      Remember the original Apple TV looked a lot like the Mac Mini. While the Latest Mac Mini seems to downgrading its specs we now believe the Apple TV is upgrading its.
      If the all new Apple TV box has Motion sensors, Camera connectors, HardDrive connections or say Recording capabilities maybe it will appear similar to how it first was seen the day it was put on the market.

  6. The way I see the logic is that an Apple Television ( let’s assume it sells at $2,000 ) would need to include features that are unique to Apple and that probably means services. Such things are only practical when there are lots of users.

    By first releasing the Apple TV adaptor ( <$100 ) which also includes those features and works with your existing TV, the number of users will be drastically higher and it the service then becomes viable. If it turns into a huge success, there may then come a point when it's worth releasing a dedicated Apple Television, but as things stand there is no business model that makes an Apple Television a viable proposition with services as they currently exist.

    The number of people willing to spend <$100 to try something is massively higher than the number willing to spend $2,000 to try something.

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