Apple’s brilliant decision to drop its HDTV plans in favor of a new Apple TV

“After nearly a decade of research, development, and prototyping, Apple not too long ago decided to completely scrap its plans to release an HDTV,” Yoni Heisler writes for BGR.

“Instead, the company regrouped and decided to go all in with a multipurpose set-top box, the fruits of which were unveiled last month with the introduction of the fourth-gen Apple TV,” Heisler writes. “Though Apple may have abandoned its HDTV plans, it still has its eyes firmly set on the living room. In fact, the company’s new Apple TV is much better positioned to infiltrate the living room than an HDTV would have ever been.”

Heisler writes, “What’s more, going the set-top box route will also prove to be much more lucrative for Apple in the long run. In short, Apple abandoning its HDTV plans and going all-in with a completely revamped Apple TV was a stroke of genius.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Poor Gene.

While we would have like to see 4K, we’ll get it eventually. In the meantime, the Apple TV with an App Store and the looming over-the-top skinny bundle(s) will be more than enough impetus to have us ordering multiple Apple TV units.

46 Comments

  1. I think scrapping the TV idea was the best move Apple could have made. With every Tom, Dick and Harry selling relatively inexpensive televisions, Apple could not have made money on a television. What innovation could they bring to the market other than putting the guts of an Apple TV inside?

    Selling the Apple TV as a separate box that works on ALL brands is a much saner idea.

    1. Agree. With multiple HDMI inputs available it is easy to add a device like this.
      Not only that, if you upgrade your TV you can move your Apple TV to the new one.

    2. I see problems with this strategy.

      -There is and will continue to be competition for a living room platform (e.g., Android, slingbox, Amazon Fire TV…);
      -TVs have become “smart”. The Apple TV becomes somewhat redundant here;
      -It’s unclear just how many killer Apps make sense for a living room, and Apple won’t have a monopoly on these;
      -Apple TV lacks content. This makes it much more like a standard set top box and even less compelling in this respect than a Fire TV. Amazon could block their Prime App on Apple TV for instance.

      Here’s what I think Jobs was trying to do and would have done: create an incredible TV that has the Apple TV guts inside it. If you want Apple TV, you need to buy the full television set. Here is the last part that makes this strategy so compelling and competitive: it includes content. Users simply subscribe to Apps as channels and can build their own TV channel library.

      And you’ll be in sync with the new Apple TV App for iPhone and iPad!

      Jobs would have lined up all the network and movie execs and got deals in place, completely REINVENTING TV by ushering in a new era. He would have had major game studios on board as well.

      Nobody would have the software/hardware combination to compete with Apple and people would line up to buy it.

      What we have here is someting that will sell ok, but my prediction is, once again, it won’t sell great. This is Tim Cook… the days of reinventing a new category are over. Because of competition and lack of fully reinventing TVs, with this strategy, Apple will never own the living room. They won’t even be best.

      When is everyone going to realize Tim Cook is wrong for Apple…

      1. You do understand that it was and is mainly Eddie Cue who does all of Apple’s licensing deals with content producers? So your rant against Tim Cook is a little misguided.

        And how exactly did you determine that AppleTV lacks content? Netflix, Crackle, Hulu, HBO, ShowTime, PBS, Disney, MLB, NHL, NFL, ESPN, etc. Not to mention it’ the only device with iTunes!!! (which is probably the largest digital media distribution channel on the planet.)

        1. Michael, et al.:

          You’re now making excuses for Apple. Eddie was there with Jobs and Jobs was the driving force behind deals. Cook is also the CEO and bears the responsibility at the end of the day. It’s his job to lose, not Eddie, or any other minion. Tim Cook is accountable as CEO.

          Second, there is no “content” because Apple has no “TV”. They don’t offer TV channels. While I’m guessing you’re American, Apple is a global company. In Canada, like many other countries, we don’t get things like Hulu, Amazon Prime, etc. Netflix is pretty much it. In order to replace the TV… to replace CABLE, Apple needed to do more here.

          Jobs said in his bio that he finally cracked the code of the TV. It’s fairly accepted that he meant Apps would be TV channels that users could subscribe to. Users could then build their own content this way, SOLVING THE PROBLEM OF TODAY WITH CABLE COMPANIES FORCING CONSUMERS INTO WORTHLESS BLOATED PROGRAMMING PACKAGES.

          This id the heart of the PROBLEM Jobs was looking to solve with an Apple TV.

          For this reason and more, what we have here with the new Apple TV is a shell of what Jobs envisioned, missing a key part of cracking the TV code. If you’re outside the US, the new Apple TV isn’t very compelling. It’s cool, but it offers very little to us outside the US with old Apple TVs, not the least of which is lack of 4k.

          1. If Apple TV is “useless” other than in the USA. Why would people outside the USA want to spend big bucks on a Apple Television that would be WAY more expensive and equally as useless. What would make a TV any more spectacular?

            You also mentioned that Apple is an international company. Why would they want to ship something as large as a TV around the globe. Right now they go out their way to make iMac boxes as small as possible (thus the odd shape).

            Have fun hauling your 50″+ TV through the mall to your nearest Apple Store and buying a new TV every few years.

            1. Bandit Bill:

              Nice strawman. I NEVER said the Apple TV was useless.

              Apple is a technology company. Where others fail they come in, innovate, and succeed. You’re attitude defeatist; you’re reading comprehension below standard.

            2. Where others fail(comma) they come in, innovate, and succeed. You’re (Your) attitude (is) defeatist; you’re (your) reading comprehension below standard.

              Nice writing by someone being snarky about another’s reading comprehension.

            3. You really think that an Apple TV set which would inevitably be at the high end would sell enough to finance all the studio deals that would have to be done for exclusive content? Thats completely counter intuitive and for it to have even a donuts chance in Steve Balmer’s kitchen it would have to offer something totally unique and massively persuasive to all concerned. Unless you can specify what that unique selling point is and how it couldn’t be copied by others then I really don’t even see even one wheel on your wagon. Thankfully the much derided Cook and others didn’t fall for this suggested smoke and mirrors fantasy.

      2. If the Apple TV currently “lacks content,” that’s a temporary situation. With the new App store, the new Apple TV will soon have a flood of new apps and content.

      3. Ah, another third party who wants to bitch about Tim Cook.

        Your argument is naive at best.

        TV’s have become smart, but like the clock that flashes 12:00 on the VCR, no one wants to learn how to operate their “Smart TV’s” operating system. TV’s should be as dumb as possible, and let the people bring the box.

        As far as content goes, most of it is locked up in contracts. Studios, distributers, broadcasters, creators lock themselves into multi-year deals that won’t expire for a very long time. The NFL / DirecTV deal is a good example. Besides, the television and movie industries aren’t exactly desperate. In the late 90’s and early 2000’s the music industry was being looted, and iTunes was a savior for them. I believe Jobs had to wrangle 5 record labels into a contract and that was 99% of all the music out there. Getting a much bigger industry to cooperate isn’t going to happen.

        I’m happy with Cook’s decision (if this story is real) to scrap an Apple branded television.

        1. Smart TVs are the worst idea ever, but the only way the TV makers ‘can be different from each other’.

          how many duplicated services do you need? Netflix Hulu et al on your AVR, your BluRay, your connected computer, your tablet, multiple set-top boxes, and the TV also? What a joke.

          Agree with you Jim W. Hat, let the display be as dumb as possible. 2 years ago I purchased a 50″ TV because it had good picture quality, and not a single smart, streaming, network/internet connected feature. I have 4 other devices to do all of that.

      4. TVs have become “smart”.

        TVs have claimed to be smart for almost a decade now. I have owned a Samsung “Smart” TV and absolutely hate its UI. The touch thingie on the remote and Siri should work great to get all the smart content.

        Agree that without Jobs, Eddy is clueless about forcing the media barons to see the light of the day.

        Also, I dont think Amazon has an app on Apple TV and that was Apple’s decision and not Amazon’s. Amazon would love to get as much money as they can from as many devices. They make money by content, not hardware.

        1. Totally agree such a statement is laughable when you think of the criticism Apple gets these days for user interface design. My Sony so called Smart TV is an absolute nightmare to get almost anything useful out of to the point now that I only use its ability to play BBC iPlayer catchup because of its web connection further than one week back. Sadly it doesn’t offer any of the other channels.

    3. And Apple is likely to sell more this way because it’s preferable to replace a set-top box for two reasons:

      1. It’s easier to see spending $100-$150 every few years on a set-top box than to spend $500 or more on a T.V. every few years. Generally, you’re going to want to hang onto a T.V. for a decade. It’s no big deal to buy a new set-top box every few years.

      2. It’s physically easier to move a small set-top box than to move a 40-50″ T.V. .

      It’s much easier and less expensive to replace a set-top box than a T.V. when you want new features.

      Smart TVs are a bad idea because they double the cost of the T.V. and you can’t just replace the motherboard when you want to upgrade, you have to replace the whole 40-50″ T.V. . With an Apple T.V., you can pretty much just unplug the HDMI and power cables from the old one, take the new one out of the box, and plug the HDMI and power cables from the old Apple T.V. into the new one, though you’ll have to use the new power cable with the new Apple T.V. But it’s still an easier process.

  2. Did I miss something? When did Apple indicate that they were ever developing an HDTV. The obvious area for Apple is the set-top. The new Apple TV just scratches the surface. What we need is something to easily control all this mess. I have $10,000 tied up in a bunch of TV components and every one of them is trying to solve a problem that another solves. For example, older DVD up convert is being solved by 3 components.

  3. Their strategy this time is quite different for Apple. Instead of a sexy slab of hardware hosting features we can’t live without, they’re taking a more nuanced approach that could only come from a position of confidence.

    Witb so many people using iPhone and iPads and visiting Apple stores, they’ll keep learning about the AppleTV’s expanding feature-set. Apps they love will tell them to try it out on AppleTV. New multi-player games will drive awareness and adoption.

    Eventually streaming packages will let Apple make a big splash in the market. But in the mean time Apple may have organically added an entirely new leg to its product offering stool, without the big launch. Very new for Apple.

    Usually it’s revolution followed by evolution. The fact they could be this flexible says a lot about the new Apple.

    1. As always with Apple there is conflict in deciding just when to upgrade. I don’t care about game-apps on my tv at this point. I’d rather have faster streaming AND 4-K for my 4-K tv. I imagine 4-K is another two versions later so I’ll probably jump in on this one, but disappointed they at least provide a faster Ethernet port for direct wired-feed.

      Apple is all about the ‘incremental’ increase and profit margins, and not about the customer. Even their vaunted ‘ease of use’ interface goal is starting to suffer badly – can you say iTunes!?!

    2. 4K needs content.
      Back in 2006, I bought my first HDTV. Cost me $3000. The cable company had boast of great content for HDTV. Imagine my surprise when after connecting the HDTV cable box, most of the programing and channels were SD.
      Add to that a big def DVD solution was not available for a good number of years.
      Since then I have bought HDTVs only when the price was reasonable for the screen size. Sure 4K screens are available (even 3D or curved screen, but the content is nowhere to be seen.
      My guess is that it will be another 3 years before we see 4K content is significant numbers. We may never see a disc based system.
      So sure by a 4K screen but most people will be frustrated by the lack of content.

  4. Big flat panel TVs have high specs and lower prices – indeed a lot lower prices over the last few years. Why then would Apple try to sell expensive top end TV’s to which it would add the ‘Apple computing element’.

    The money is in the content supply and management as it moves towards fibre optic input speeds combined with massive server farms capable of supplying that volume of data.

    1. “The money is in the content supply…”

      Exactly! So why isn’t Apple there? In TVs, Apple is choosing to lead from behind. Amazon is already streaming 4K UHD TV. Tim Cook is letting Apple miss the window of opportunity.

      1. Before an TV can provide 4K you need three other things:
        4K TV
        Content
        Bandwidth

        There are very few of the first two and bandwidth is already being squeezed by 1080i (compressed) streaming.

        So you would be paying for something that MOST people in the next 2-3 years won’t have, and chances are good the tech might change in that time.

        BTW, I feel confident there are WAAAAY more 3D TVs and movies out there, and yet…..

        1. Have to agree, TT. Far too many people are worrying about 4K when 4K lacks critical mass – not enough 4K UHDTVs have been sold, not much 4K content has been generated, and the distribution channels for 4K content are very limited.

          Does 4K fit on Bluray? How many people have the bandwitfth to stream it that also have the UHDTV to view it?

          This situation is analogous to the release of HDTVs fifteen years ago when 720p content remained the norm for years. Even now, there is a lot of non-1080p content out there. The transition from HDTV to UHDTV will likely happen more quickly than the original transition to HDTV, but there will be many years of HDTV content to come.

          No worries, folks. 4K is not going to stop the growth of AppleTV sales. The keys to Apple success are content, cost, and user experience.

      2. The “window of opportunity” for 4K doesn’t even exist yet. That technology is still in its infancy.

        – Most TV’s currently being used RIGHT NOW are HDTVs. And most of those people won’t upgrade for a long while yet.

        – Internet bandwidth to most homes across the United States is abysmal and probably couldn’t support a 4K stream.

        – “They” haven’t decided on a single standard – it’s the Blue-Ray vs. HD-DVD all over again.

        – There’s just not enough content. You promise your customer UHD and 90% of the time they’re watching HD.

        Add all that up and there’s no reason for Apple to start supporting 4K on the AppleTV. (Which by the way, can be upgraded to support UHD in the future – the HDMI 1.4 spec allows for UHD at 30Hz).

        1. Exactly. TVs are upgraded on about an eight year cycle. Even if the 4K problems were fixed immediately it would take years before many people had them. There are multiple 4K formats which adds to the complexity of this problem.

          If you want a 4K display from Apple buy an iMac.

    1. Unlikely since that would break the current Apple controlling both the HW and SW.. It would be more likely for Apple to offer an internal HW component for integration in the TV sets of various OEMs.

  5. Digging down to the Wallstreet Journal article about how ‘Apple quietly shelved plans’ to make and sell an HDTV, it turns out that this information came from the very best of authorities:

    “People familiar with the matter”

    And they’re always right. 😛
    😵😵😵

    It remains rumor.

  6. Now that Gene (Munster) has conceded defeat on this one, I’ll go out on a limb to argue why it would be a good idea.

    Households are generally made up of equal parts if men and women. And generally, there are very few things that women hate more than multiple remotes. And those multi-function remotes are pretty much useless as none of them can cover the features you need among your devices, unless you have an engineering degree to set it up.

    A TV with a one single remote for ALL features would be porn for women. And in most households, they have veto power on spending.

    Even if Apple’s TV were twice as expensive as a comparable Visio, there might be a market for it. Finance the part of the price with monthly content subscription (like mobile subsidy model), thus hiding the full price and it could move well.

      1. I have no doubt that’s a good universal remote, but the most common problems remain: first, with multiple devices, one still must figure out which device does what; second, more important, while you and I would happily take our time to thoroughly set up such remote, the unwashed masses will have little clue how to do it. Essentially, it is a blinking 12:00 conundrum (nobody ever figuring out how to set up clock on their VCR, and therefore nobody ever figuring out how to schedule taping).

        As for things women hate, I don’t know; there may be many things that come close, but at least to me, this one seems very much near (if not at) the top of that list, especially since it occurs on a daily basis…

        1. It is not all that complicated. The software walks you through in a nice Apple-esque manner, which BTW Apple would also have to put you through if they had such a system.

          Most people I know who would have a problem setting one up (my Mother….) at least know someone who can spend 30 minutes getting it done.

          It actually makes the complicated very UNcomplicated.

          Point is, there are already solutions to some of these problems, and I think Apple sees that.

          Also, if you don’t like a remote with a bunch of buttons, the more ‘featured’ (expensive) ones have full touchscreens that change depending on the activity.

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