The Future of TV

There’s so much buzz about a hypothetical Apple Television (Set) right now, it’s hard to stand. Everyone’s over-interpreting this short statement by Steve Jobs. And ‘it’, whatever it is, is at least half a year away from now, because Apple obviously won’t present new products before the Christmas holidays or right after.
But it’s so much fun to think about how Apple could revolutionize this business branch. Especially this one, because no one would argue that TV in general isn’t broken, whether in the US or in Germany.

General Speculation

Consensual, in my opinion, is that the new Apple TV Set (I’ll just call it that) can’t do less than the current Apple TV. Maybe it could do some things differently, but not less. That would be:

  • Access to Music, Movies and TV Series via the iTunes Store
  • Netflix/MLB TV/Youtube/Vimeo etc. Apps
  • AirPlay

And there we are. When you look at these features, it really is clear that the Apple TV, after all, is a hub. It’s the thing that gets the movies available in iTunes/Netflix on your big screen TV, as well as - via AirPlay - your home videos. What else could it be?

The screen, obviously. A solution that’s ‘just’ a box like the Apple TV isn’t going to deliver an experience that would stand up to a standard Steve Jobs would’ve called ‘an integrated television set’. One could argue that a box that’s just plugged into HDMI and handles everything else is integrated enough. But sadly, TV set manufacturers manage to make simple things like selecting an input a real hassle.

What else could it be? AirPlay?
I totally agree with Joe Hewitt. He claims that the role of AirPlay is underestimated in the current speculation. Like he says, it makes the iPad a console. The iPad 2 and the iPhone 4S’s A5 processor is so powerful that it can put out nice graphics in 720p. There’s potential there. Since gaming is big on iOS, I’m sure the number of games supporting 720p output instead of just the standard iOS 5 AirPlay Mirroring will grow fast. It’s a nice addition and may be totally great for some people, but still - it can’t be a main feature for the masses and certainly wasn’t what Steve Jobs talked about. It doesn’t deliver an Apple TV experience that gets at what Marco’s post makes one aware of:

Like many modern geeks, we don’t have cable TV service. Our TV set is merely a monitor for game consoles and media players. We can watch movies and TV shows, but not live — only via iTunes and Netflix.

Ah, yeah. Right. Most people don’t watch certain shows they really want to watch. They watch ‘TV’ instead. Can Apple change the way how people watch TV that much? What could they do either to do that or otherwise fit the range of content in iTunes to match people’s TV consumption? Or both?

Apple could beef up their content deals big time. Every TV Show you could think of at your fingertips. Just what they did with music. But I think Apple has to do that anyway. That can’t be the ‘next big thing’ in TV, unless Apple reveals a literally overall deal with some neat pricing. But even Apple can’t pull that off. Neither for all the old TV Shows and Movies nor for all the current ones.
And still: How would Apple present it? What does the future Apple TV solution do when it’s being turned on? Just show something? A continuous stream of content? With ads? I’m lost. Of course, Apple has to offer more content. But they can’t present it like ordinary TV does, and they can’t present it like the Apple TV today does, that wouldn’t get any grip in the market. We will be surprised, I guess.

US / Germany

We will be surprised I guess, and I mean it. But here in Germany, you’ll have to take that with a grain of salt, I think. Everything that involves content, maybe some kind of flatrate and technology in general, just doesn’t work here. Spotify, YouTube and iTunes Match (as soon as it launches) don’t work in Germany like they work in the US, because of overcome rules.
For Movies, it’s the same. ‘Amazon Prime’ in Germany doesn’t include movie streaming. There’s no Germany Netflix. And if there were one, it couldn’t show new US TV Shows because of exclusive rights that lie with ABC, AMC, CBS, Showtime or HBO. Content deals, restrictions and borders - it’s a mess. To cut a long story short: Even if Apple cranks out a really awesome TV solution, I can’t imagine how it could possibly takte the iPhone’s spirit to the TV market and revolutionize it outside the US.
I hope to be proven wrong.