I amazes me how some people can take a technology (in this example, the Apple's Siri voice control tech) and then go on not only to build some unicorn technology out of it, but then go as far as building a saddle and even a stable for that mythical unicorn.
Enter Ben Elowitz with his piece over on AllThingsD called 'With Siri TV, Apple Will Dismantle the TV Networks.' Yes, yet another piece that originates from Isaccson's biography of Steve Jobs (along with endless lashings of speculation by Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster on the matter).
Let's take a look at this unicorn Elowitz has constructed:
Steve Jobs died without fully transforming television, but the day after he passed away, Apple unveiled Siri, its natural language interface. Though it’s currently only embedded in the new iPhone 4S, Siri could eventually change the face of the TV industry.
It goes on ...
Most observers and analysts believe that Siri’s voice commands could eliminate the need for those clunky TV remote controls. With the blurring and exponential proliferation of television and Web content, telling your TV what you’d like to watch, instead of scrolling through a nearly infinite number of program possibilities, makes a lot more sense.
Stop right there Elowitz. I already have a couple of questions.
- Is this system entirely voice controlled? If yes (let's ignore how monumentally complex a task it would be to control an entire TV by voice), then I'm going to need something that I talk into (surely this TV isn't going to be listening to me all the time), and that people wanting to communicate with the TV will need to press a button or something to initiate Siri TV ... but on what? iPhone? iPad? An Apple remote?
- What about all the other remote controls I have? Siri TV 'might' (and I really can't put enough quotes around the word 'might' there) work for this mythical TV or whatever, but it doesn't help with all the other devices. In fact, using voice for one device, and having to turn to remote control(s) for the others could become a pain in the rear. If remotes are the enemy in the living room, then a Siri TV doesn't really help.
Elowitz goes on:
Voice-controlled TV means direct navigation to individual episodes, programs and clips. And it will almost certainly lead to a discernible deconstruction of the network and channel structure — not to mention the decomposition of even the aggregated marketplaces like Netflix, Hulu and YouTube.
Here Elowitz has built a nice saddle for the Siri TV unicorn. But why exactly would voice control mean direct access to anything? Why can't a traditional search (or navigating through a menu) accomplish the same thing? Voice search, like any other search/input mechanism, is only as good as the user otherwise it's GIGO (Garbage In, Garbage Out). One of the problems I and many others have with entertainment is actually knowing what they want to watch, which is a nexus of knowing what's available and what I want to watch. Unless Siri TV is going to read my mind then I can't see what advantage a voice control mechanism offers.
Beyond disaggregation, personalization is ultimately the most powerful consumer value of digital media. My mother’s TV experience was to walk over to her TV set and turn a dial to select among three channels to satisfy her individuality. But in the next generation, no two people will receive the same recommendations from the millions of content choices available.
Here we come to the stable for the unicorn. This doesn't even have anything to do with Siri or voice control, this is about choice and personalization, something that content providers already do. This is inevitable based on there just being more content available.
The problem with all these Apple TV rumors is that no one can come up with a single compelling reason why Apple should go into the business of making TVs. Sure, it's easy to pull together technologies like Siri and ARM-based CPUs, then do some hand-waving and come to the conclusion that Apple must be working on TVs but all this ignores the fact that Apple already sells a product that will connect to any TV that happens to have an HDMI connector called the AppleTV. What's more, that product, even at $99, isn't exactly setting the world alight.
I'm not saying that Apple isn't working on something that will revolutionize TV (the company works on all kinds of stuff), but the one thing that I am sure of is that if Apple brings anything out resembling the franken-TV postulated by the rumormongers, it would fail, and fail hard.
Maybe Apple needs to release something that looks like this and get it over with ...
There you go rumormongers, an Apple TV! A surefire success, right?
- Tell me again, why does Apple need to make TVs?
- Can Microsoft beat Apple and Google and successfully ‘appify’ the TV?
- Do you want a Microsoft Kinect built into your TV?
- Steve Jobs might have ‘finally cracked’ the simplest TV UI, but here’s a problem he didn’t solve