The new Apple TV ideas being kicked around would involve a combination of airplay and new Apple TV remote possibilities as part of an update to the product that’s been described as an “experiment.” After a review of the pulse of the scene, it seems that the Apple TV update that’s due will bring it out of the experiment phase and open up the possibility of a new Apple TV set in HD as well as usher in a range of Apple TV apps.
The Apple TV model as it's talked about today consists of two simultaneous tracks: a continuation of the Apple TV set top box, and an HD TV that would have Apple TV software pre-packaged inside of it. Both are good ideas and Apple is likely to offer both -- the Apple TV set top box is low-cost version where you pay $100 for the hardware, the Apple HD TV would be the high-end premium product that Apple does so well.
Never forget that Apple is a hardware company and that iTunes, Apple TV as a service and the yet-to-arrive iTunes Radio are there only to provide a great user experience on the Apple hardware and devices a la the famous Apple ecosystem. They're all reasons to buy the hardware/device and their existence is meant to drive sales. Check out a full review of the iTunes Radio user experience.
The new Apple TV wouldn't just be about TV and video, there's also music services like Pandora Radio and Spotify, as well as becoming a gaming platform and a place for app development. It's everything that the cloud has been promising us: all of our TV, music and games delivered in an all-encompassing medium. Add an app store to that for people to make their own Apple TV apps for iCloud, and you can quickly see how this would be a huge new product cycle for Apple, that involves every aspect of the Apple ecosystem. It's the iPhone, all over again.
Also tantalizing is the redefinition of what an Apple TV remote could be ... we already have the Apple remote app for part of that action, but what happens when Siri comes into play? What about gesture controls? These are existing products and technologies that are already in use by Apple and other TVs on the market. The iPad can make an awesome remote that has changing screens rather than being stuck with a bunch of buttons that offer limited and confusing controls on a traditional remote.
A report by Frost & Sullivan this week showed that Apple TV as it already exists is the 800 pound gorilla with 56% of the market, with Roku second 21.5% and TiVo third at 6.5%. As far Apple TV vs Roku goes, Apple is killing it. This is one of the areas that separate Apple TV from the traditional cable set-top box: the ability to connect over the air (they call it AirPlay) to the Apple TV set-top box with your laptop, iPad, TV or iPhone and stream video or music.
Digitimes talks this week about how how Apple wants to buy HD TV panels, and is considering both LG Display and Sony, saying that Apple wants "55 and 65 inch Ultra HD TV panels from LG Display."
Jessica Lessin (formerly of The Wall Street Journal) broke the idea that Apple was in talks to allow users to skip over ads on Apple TV, saying that Apple wanted to introduce "technology that allows viewers to skip commercials and that pays media companies for the skipped views." This would be for premium version of Apple TV, so everyone would still get ads on the regular version of Apple TV. This is the model that streaming music services like Spotify, Rdio and Pandora Radio work on.
Jon Erlichman from Bloomberg TV talked about this this past week from the Sun Valley conference in Idaho, speaking about Apple iTunes guy Eddy Cue attending the conference with CEO Tim Cook, a public move meant to show his involvement and get him some face time with media execs to propose ideas and options while everyone is all in the same place.
The NY Times also weighed in with a look at some of the other Apple TV news, saying that in addition to HBO and ESPN apps that were recently added to Apple TV, Time Warner Cable is now onboard and that "the app will effectively add an Apple layer on top of the TV screen, providing what its proponents say is a programming guide that is far superior to anything offered by Time Warner." Essentially Apple would be packaging up the software and user experience, and then licensing content from Cable companies, individual channels and services like HBO, Netflix or Sky News as it does now; then adding new content partners.
The ability to skip commercials is a good idea considering that DVRs, VCRs, Netflix and other services and products already let us do that. The old advertising model of interruptive ads has been dying a slow death, and this would acknowledge the current reality of how users watch video in how Apple TV update is packaged and delivered. Factor in the possibility of an Apple TV price of a premium subscription, and you have the possibility to pay for the wiped out advertising, while improving the UX (user experience)
It's a bold new idea ... we're fully into an era where interruptive ads, meaning the kind that we get on linear mediums like TV and radio, are seen as intrusive and take us away from the show we're in the middle of. Simultaneous ads don't interrupt, they're there the whole time but allow us to keep watching what we're watching. This kind of disruptive technology thinking is what we need to usher in the new digital TV tidal wave that's coming.
This is why Netflix users are so crazy for the Netflix product: there are no commercials, anywhere. This is TV and movies as people want to experience them. What would happen if we were interrupted in a movie theater screening for a "word from our sponsors?" Everyone would freak out, and that's the era we’re in now ... people don't want to stop a broadcast for ads.
This also could extend life support for cable companies, who are beginning to fade into the digital landscape after decades of owning the game and platform in TV delivery. It's the music industry script all over again ... old media platform is losing relevance due to disruptive new technologies that are advancing at the speed of light.