Apple Television: Are they aiming too high?

Apple Television: Are they aiming too high?

Summary: The TV market is already saturated with numerous manufacturers that build inexpensive units that look gorgeous. Why reinvent the wheel?

TOPICS: Apple, Hardware, Mobility

In the recently published bio of Steve Jobs, Walter Isaacson described the future plans for an Apple-branded television. It's ambitious, but not entirely unexpected. For several years now, Apple has been producing the Apple TV entertainment device. Considering their focus on consumer products, it's a good strategic move.

The only question is, should Apple actually build and sell a television?

Don't get me wrong. I think the product will likely be an attractive, quality device that will look stunning and be easy to use. But is it really necessary? The TV market is already saturated with numerous manufacturers that build inexpensive units that look gorgeous. Why reinvent the wheel?

Of course, it goes without saying that Apple is famous for reinventing the wheel and making a killing doing it. The plan to use the Siri technology from the iPhone 4S is a great decision. It's still new, and will have some growing pains. But the ability to speak in plain English to your video entertainment device is a big step. Before VCRs went extinct, there were plenty of people that couldn't get the display to stop flashing 12:00. Reducing the complexity of using an entertainment system is a major step forward.

The displays that Apple uses in its products are excellent. The Apple Cinema displays are stunning. But they're also quite expensive. You can buy a similar monitor from a competing manufacturer for less than half the price. Unless Apple provides some amazing incentive in terms of features and service, it's possible that an overpriced TV product from them will not sell very well--especially not in an over-stressed economy.

I'm not saying that Apple should give up on a television product. I simply think that they should focus on an expanded product built on the existing Apple TV platform. Make it bigger. Add PVR capabilities. Put Siri in it. Then allow it to be plugged into a TV of our own choosing. The market for televisions is huge because there are so many different categories that consumers want, based on size, location, affordability, and so forth.

Apple isn't known for having numerous different options for their product lines. Are they going to want to produce a dozen different TV products? Will they be able to compete price wise? I honestly can't say. They might sell enough to garner a niche market. I think, however, we may have to actually wait until they bring something to market before we can get a better sense of how this will play out.

I think the best direction would be to have a trial run of an Apple television, and expand Apple TV devices that hook up to existing TVs developed in tandem with them. That way Apple could satisfy both the high end and cost-conscious shoppers.

Topics: Apple, Hardware, Mobility

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  • RE: Apple Television: Are they aiming too high?

    It's not "reinventing the wheel" and to think that is extremely naive. With all the advancements and choices related to how we watch programs, movies, and even short clips (how to's, funny amateur segments, etc..(see YouTube)), the living room entertainment center is in DESPERATE need of some reinventing. Huklu, NetFlix, YouTube, iTunes, and even individual broadcasting sites like HBOGo and are all looking for a way to jump from device to television.

    For a technology writer not to realize that is really disappointing. As a matter of fact, if you had any technological insightfulness you would have written a piece that was the exact opposite of this.
    • So Apple should just build a TV with AppleTV built in

      instead of focusing on the AppleTV, something I can HDMI right on in to any TV I have it have work the exact same way as a combo unit would.

      So Apple should go ahead and combine the two as that's a much smarter choice in what way?
      William Farrell
      • RE: Apple Television: Are they aiming too high?

        @William Farrell It's not that it's a smarter choice, but that it's a choice. Many people like individual self-contained products that do everything they need, while others prefer components that interconnect. It is good to provide products for both types of consumers: think of the iMac, which is self-contained, vs the Mac Mini, which is a component.
      • RE: Apple Television: Are they aiming too high?

        What makes you think the current providers are going to relinquish any control?
    • RE: Apple Television: Are they aiming too high?

      @evanwins I agree, but at the same time, I'm concerned that Apple may be focusing so much on the technology inside that they are forgetting the most important part - a premium display panel designed for optimum display of entertainment. They can't just scale up a desktop display. If they want to court video aficionados with a pricey, high-tech entry, their choice of manufacturer for the display panel is critical. They can't just take the cheapest bid from some tertiary player in the display market. They need to stick with the top manufacturers, who they are mostly suing right now. In addition, those of us who spend big money on home theater will not be satisfied with 720p source material or streaming. Simply stuffing an Apple TV inside a TV won't cut it. It needs to be full high-definition. Apple's entry into this market has the potential to go VERY badly for them, if they don't pay attention to these little details.
    • RE: Apple Television: Are they aiming too high?

      Apple is going to make 35" TV and everyone will LOVE it.
  • RE: Apple Television: Are they aiming too high?

    I think a tv would be great, something to send AirPlay to. Lot of schools that are putting tvs in classrooms to work with iPads. Lot of people that want Siri and easy of iTunes etc as multimedia center. People now do not store music or video on their tvs, whereas an Apple tv could replace the need for a stereo and a tv, plus get a lot more functionality without the complexity of setup. Right now some nerds hook their stereos up to streaming media and some might have their tv working with xbox and/or cable service. Start putting the pile of remotes on your table and good luck - probably only the person that set it up and maybe one other person in the house trusts changing any of the settings. This could make it dead simple, plus put a ton more lower power settings into the equipment, like the mac mini and current Apple TV products. You might save a ton in yearly energy costs using a single product that can play music and mute the video on the screen, use instant on without needing a vampire drain of power. Get rid of all the infrared remotes that only work when pointing directly at the sensor, put in all wifi or bluetooth etc.
    • A lot of schools already have Televisions in the classroom

      that operate without the need of an iPad, instead working with a much more diverse choice of hardware.

      The need to replace the televisions foa na all in one unit that may not work with pre-existing hardware is a cost many schools can not afford.

      Concentrating on the existing AppleTV would be a much more logical choice, as connecting a device is not a complicated matter as it was years ago.
      Tim Cook
  • RE: Apple Television: Are they aiming too high?

    Where did Google go wrong with their version of Google TV? Well, there are many possible and good answers to that question. And, how can Apple succeed beyond a "hobby" interest?

    IMO, there are two main reasons why Google TV failed. And make no mistake about that, except in the eyes of Android fanbois, Google TV DID fail. In fact, it didn't even make "hobby" status.

    The first reason Google TV failed is that the Telcoms (cable and satellite) providers didn't want to give up content control. The second reason is hardware related. Google TV required a complicated remote, a keyboard and a pointing device (mouse, trackball, game console controller, etc) for operational control. (The buggy Android software was a minor annoyance.)

    Apple can easily conquer the hardware/software issues that plagued Google's initial efforts. Obviously, as Scott has pointed out, Siri is a key technology which would eliminate all the external accessory hardware controllers. No more remote. No more keyboard. No more mice.

    Plus, Apple will leverage their existing iOS devices for TV control purposes. Key Telcoms have already established apps which all control by and remote streaming of content to iOS devices.

    Also, I suspect Apple engineers will simply make content accessory devices like DVRs, HD disc players and the like behave as simply "plug and play" units. For example, just hook up any Blu-Ray player and it will automatically be configured to work with Apple's TV and Apple TV's menu system.

    More likely, however, Apple TV will use Flash based memory for DVR capability and leverage their iCloud infrastructure (including iTunes content) to make those accessory devices obsolete.

    Finally, Apple TV could and should be an actually computer. A large iMac, if you will. "Picture" this possibility. To search the internet while watching a program on Apple TV, a viewer would speak to "Apple TV Siri" about that internet related request and then Siri initiates a PIP internet screen with the requested information displayed.

    Or, using a variation on that theme, an iPad or other iOS Siri enabled device networked to the Apple TV could initiate the same displayed result.

    Remember that the above example would occur without a keyboard, remote or mouse action requirement, unlike Google TV's current design.

    However, there are at least two hurdles to solve before these scenarios can become reality. The obvious one concerns the TV hardware itself. IMO, Samsung manufactures the best HDTV units currently. It would have been a natural synergetic result if Apple chose Samsung as it's HDTV manufacturer. With all those lawsuits going on, that may delay the introduction of this rumored new Apple product until Apple can outsource the HDTV unit from a different supplier.

    And, of course, there is the price issue. Bose HDTV (a really impressive product) remains a very low sale volume item because of it's price. If Apple can pull an iPhone "hat trick", that is, bundle three key functions or components into a single device at a competitive price point, Apple TV will be a success. Big Time.

    Of course, my guesses are as good as anyone else's are at this point. Grin.
  • RE: Apple Television: Are they aiming too high?

    For Apple to release a TV it had better be competitive because LG is selling excellent LED Passive 3D TVs for cheap money and thinking that Apple will deliver 2 to 3x that value is just bs.

    All a TV with iOS 5 would do is push more manufacturers to include Google TV with a VLingo or Speak2it (both are currently more accurate at voice recognition than Siri at the moment) installed.

    And to answer your question, no we don't need another TV Manufacturer as the ones we have now build a wide range of high quality TVs and it is unlikely that Apple will rival the best TVs from these manufacturers.
  • A ways off I think

    Too ambitious. Let's face it. Apple has not made the current Apple TV device capable enough to replace all the other stuff. It can replace the DVD if you're willing to invest in iTunes movies. It can stream Netflix, BFD what can't. Until it comes with a whole lot more functionality I see no chance. As I have stated in the past an add on device or app that Apple could sell to OEMs is the way to go... For now.
    • RE: Apple Television: Are they aiming too high?


      I think one of Jobs' biggest mistakes is the movement to phase out the ability to use disk media in computing devices, as he has done with the Mac Mini and the Mac Air laptop. People want to be able to play physical media in their entertainment systems. He was trying to force us to buy from the cloud by not offering any alternative, but that's not what consumers want. They burn their own CD mixes, and make their own home movies, apart from still renting DVDs from RedBox and the like, and buying them outright. Physical disks will not go the way of casettes or 8 tracks anytime soon. They will be with us at least another 10 years. Apple needs to accommodate them if they really want to control the living room
  • RE: Apple Television: Are they aiming too high?

    Last piece in the jigsaw for Apple's integrated ecosystem. However being Apple it will be very expensive and you'll have to pay for features and add ons that you take for granted else where.
    Alan Smithie
    • RE: Apple Television: Are they aiming too high?

      @Alan Smithie

      You mean, being expensive just like the iPad was when it was introduced.

    very good
  • Apple: a corporation that's lost its way

    Accustomed to being number two, they quickly grew bloated with the brief period of success when they got lucky with iOS.

    Apple's marketing department practically invented the smartphone, but now Samsung alone has easily overtaken Apple's smartphone sales figures. Apple is destined to be left behind.
    Tim Acheson
    • RE: Apple Television: Are they aiming too high?

      @Tim Acheson
      No they did not invent. There were smartphones way more capable of the iPhone before it was even a concept. What they did is reinvent the U.I of smartphone.
    • Sorry, Tim...

      @Tim Acheson

      You're probably one of those people that for the last 20 years predicted Apples doom. 'Microsft will bury them!' 'A music player called an iPod, pathetic!' 'A cell phone without plastic keys? Lunacy!' 'A tablet called iPad? What a joke!'

      Whereas others saw potential way back then and invested in Apple (at 5$ per share) and proved to be right.

      No matter how much you wish it, Apple isn't going anywhere but up! You're going to be seeing more Apple products everywhere you look. Everywhere! Work, schools, colleges...The dark days of Windows everywhere are over for good. Thank God!

      And for your information, Samsung sells a variety of phones, Apple makes one product, the iPhone, and it is the most wanted and purchased smartphone...Apple can't make enough of them.
      • RE: Apple Television: Are they aiming too high?


        Samsung floods the market with phones, with the majority being crap.
  • RE: Apple Television: Are they aiming too high?

    Nothing wrong with trying different things.
    If they all only did what some blogger said to do then they all would not be as big as they are.