(Courtesy f Mashable Tech)
An Apple iTV is coming. Or is it? I mean, isn’t Apple too smart to get into the TV business? With no new Apple iPhone on the near horizon and not enough iPad 3 non-information to chew over, the media has turned its attention to yet another non-existent Apple gizmo: the Apple iTV television set.
If you have never heard this particular rumor, let me lay it out for you: Before Steve Jobs died, he “cracked” the nut that is the intelligent TV and delivered that wisdom to his product team at Apple. They are now all busy realizing this dream of a device that looks a lot like other big-screen HDTVs, but with all the Apple-liscious touches like an Apple logo on the back and virtually no controls on the front.
There’s even a design. Sort of. Okay, actually there isn’t a design at all, just a beautifully-rendered concept (see below) that did not come from Apple but has been floating around the web nonetheless.
Apple iTV is Not Crazy
Look, I don’t think the idea of an Apple TV is crazy. The difference between TVs and computers is slimming anyway. Both have processors and memory (with substantially different amounts of intelligence and power), interfaces (Windows, Apple OSX and the proprietary stuff you find in most TV sets) and, of course Internet access (Wired and Wi-Fi).
Isn’t the iMac just a really, really powerful HDTV? It has the screen resolution (1920 by 1080). All it’s missing is a tuner.
Obviously, no average consumer would accept a standard computer as their main TV. The interface is too confusing (it’s been tried: see Windows Media Center). In fact, consumers want as little interface as possible on their TVs. It’s why so few people dig into their HDTV settings. Every TV manufacturer does their menus in their own special, confusing way. Now we have the prospect of a computer manufacturer introducing yet another TV interface. But wait, we already know exactly what Apple’s iTV interface will look like: Apple TV.
Apple TV easily has the most rational interface among all set-top boxes and offers admirable extensibility. Meaning, you can add features to the horizontal interface without much effort — I can imagine just one more option “Live TV.”
Putting the tiny Apple TV box (3.9 in x 3.9 in x .9 in) that drives that interface inside a much larger set is trivial. I could probably cut a small hole inside one of my TVs and do it myself. Still, I’m not yet sure Apple will do it.
First of all, Apple will have to accept giving up at least part of the interface control. Apple, like most platform and computer manufacturers, is used to having total interface control, not sharing it with a third party. TVs, which these days are really just monitors, have to invite four or more interfaces, one for every box plugged into the myriad HDMI, component and composite ports, not the least of which is the cable box.
Apple can’t control the cable box because it can’t control cable companies. Perhaps Apple will handle input-switching differently and try to wrap its own interface around the one offered by, say, Comcast. That’s a recipe for disaster. The only thing worse than one clunky cable company DVR interface is such an interface with another layer on top of it.
Apple can’t possibly make a remote that will adequately support all your CE devices. Take a good look at Apple TV’s remote. It looks like an iPod shuffle and has about as many buttons. It doesn’t even light up in the dark. Most TV remotes have dozens of buttons, all in an effort to try and support multiple CE devices. You can program the remote to support your blu-ray player, audio receiver, DVR, etc. Most people, by the way, use their DVR remote to control everything else, including the TV. Can you imagine Apple ceding control to, say, Sony? However, if the Apple remote and TV cannot change channels — without needing an IR blaster — it just won’t work.
Let’s say Apple solves these issues. How will it sell the Apple iTV? Direct is one obvious answer, but consumers still do a lot of TV shopping in brick and mortar stores. Will Apple accept siting side-by-side with Sony, Samsung, and Vizio at consumer electronics stores across the country? Go into your local Best Buy and check out the Apple set up. It’s the only computer manufacturer with its own special area. That store real estate, though, is precious and TVs are big, often much bigger than computers. Will Best Buy take an aisle or more just for Apple TVs?
Perhaps Best Buy will do so happily. Even so, is Apple ready to compete with other TV manufacturers on price? I can buy a 54-inch 1080p Vizio for $799. Somehow, I don’t see Apple selling its premium products at competitive prices. Apple could argue that its TVs do more, but how true will that really be? All TVs connect to the Internet, many plug into your home network. What you won’t get with your Vizo TV is Airplay—which is cool, but probably not an extra $400-cool.
It is still possible that Apple will introduce an iTV next year, but before everyone gets carried away with a bunch of made up designs that have nothing to do with Apple, they better start asking some hard questions about the real TV market. The same questions I’m sure Apple execs are asking themselves right now, too.
What do you think? Is Apple really going to build and sell its own TV sets? Tell us in the comments area below and take a look at some of the iTV designs created by Guilherme Schasiepen in the gallery below.