Apple TV gained momentum this week with a Vevo app that was even added to Samsung Smart TV, but the update that’s coming is likely about more than that. We’re due for a refresh to the idea of what an Apple TV remote is, a Siri upgrade to unlock the user experience and improved streaming via Apple TV Airplay. The Apple TV set had people arguing against it this week, further below I talk about why those ideas are false arguments.
The Apple TV release date could be announced this fall with other products, as CEO Tim Cook will want to compete with Google TV and its new Chromecast. Even Carl Icahn is crowing about Apple, and we should guess that he was invited into Apple’s world to see their upcoming products before making a major investment. TV set or not, all of the innovations below are possible on the Apple TV set top box as well, leaving Apple with the option to pursue both in development while choosing a different release date for both if need be.
As for the Apple TV update for the week: they're adding Vevo to go along with the ESPN and HBO apps that made the list this Summer. Both Mashable and the Wall Street Journal reported that Time Warner is rumored to be on the list for a new Apple TV app -- this would allow users to watch their Time Warner TV shows and movies by streaming inside of the Apple TV environment.
Julie Hyman on Bloomberg said this week that she's heard from analysts that an Apple TV set is not likely right now, because the margins are too tight on TVs. She argues that Apple has mostly been a hardware company in the past, and not entering a TV market might make sense unless the hardware (the TV set) can generate a little bit of cash. I think this is the wrong perception of the opportunity, too data driven, and relies on Wall Street analysts, who by and large as a group have a horrible track record of predicting the future.
The cynical arguments against Apple TV say that say the replacement rate on TVs is 10% every year and that TVs have low profit margins -- ignore the opportunity side of things. People don't replace TVs because a new TV is expensive and all of the new TVs act the same as the old TVs, they haven't kept up with innovation. It's easy to talk yourself out of buying one when it's the same as the one you already have.
It sounds like all of the previous arguments against why Apple won't build new disruptive products: "Apple won't release a smartphone when they already own the MP3 player market with the iPod," "Apple won't release tablet because Microsoft proved they don't sell," "Apple won't release the iPad Mini when they already dominate the tablet scene with the iPad," and on and on and on. Where do all of those arguments stand now?
So there's the opportunity -- for Apple to zoom in on a market that's grown stale and disrupt it with a new technology. iPhones and iPads are basically TV screens of a different nature, and they keep outselling their previous versions due to software and hardware upgrades. Apple already sells monitors, and turning those monitors into smart TV sets with the ability to pick up on a digital TV signal requires the addition of only one layer of technology. What we’re talking about here is Apple TV as smart tv, which is the combination of TV and software. TVs of the past didn’t have software, and didn't need to be updated every few years.
The anti Apple TV set crowd is also ignoring that if Apple doesn't do any of this, others will: Google has been reworking their Google TV and is ripe for a refresh in the next year, Roku has a great product used by a ton of people, Myspace TV is happening (believe it) along with all of the others, including Google's new Chromecast and devices that haven't come to market yet.
There's been momentum building in smart TV for a couple of years and that momentum is due to erupt. If Apple doesn't try to disrupt it with something, others will. The Apple TV vs Google TV and Apple TV vs Roku fights were just the beginning, what lies ahead will be more competition and more players
If Apple dropped a new TV set on us, it could allow only its iAd advertising service to run ads ... this would compete with Google for advertising dollars and give Apple extra cash. Apple can't just be a product company anymore, the tech world is diversifying at a faster rate than ever before ... and as the recent retirement of Steve Ballmer from Microsoft shows, those that don't change with the times are due to fade from relevance. The iAd service is already poised to do big things on iTunes Radio, so the model and build is already in place and being upgraded.
An Apple TV set would allow Apple to integrate Siri into the product while excluding it from other TV makers ... a point of differentiation. For all the Siri haters out there, there's a lot of talk about an upgraded and improved Siri with the new iOS7 launch. TV in the next 5 years will be about the user experience and accessibility of content, so the idea of Siri and using your iPhone or iPad as an Apple TV remote are relevant. Telling your TV set what to call up for viewing will be as easy as telling it what you want to watch with Siri.
It also allows for a TV set to be used as an iDevice in the car as part of the dashboard, a place that Apple has made news of moving in on over the past year ... iTunes Radio and Siri are part of that movement. We should stop thinking of an Apple TV set as something for your living room and start thinking of it as an expanding idea in places we don't see a lot of innovation.
The Apple TV remote on the iPhone and iPad allows for amazing innovation to happen to the stale old TV remote we see today -- another product that hasn't been updated in decades and is long overdue. Take the clunky push button remote and replace it with a remote that has multiple screens on your iDevice, allowing you to spread buttons out and offer multiple screens for a remote. You could even customize your Apple TV remote and do away with buttons and options you don't use, and give the ones you do use prime placement.