Apple’s Challenge: Making Average Consumers Smart About Smart TV

| Analysis

A recent study by IHS showed that almost 75 percent of 1,000 people sampled are not interested in buying a smart TV, one with internet access and apps. This may pose a challenge for Apple.

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We know that Apple makes first-class products that appeal to customers with some extra money to spend. Those customers want products to make good use of their time and deliver a great experience.

And yet, such a product should appeal to a broad range of customers. If only a million or so people wanted and could afford an iPhone, it would have been a dismal failure. Apple still wants to sell lots of any product it makes, whether it's an iPod of old, iPhone today, or a new kind of Apple HDTV next year.

When we think about all the things that have been written about the so-called Apple HDTV project, the items that get discussed the most are a new way of finding, selecting and viewing content. Tim Cook recently lamented that the way we watch TV hasn't changed. In a recent interview with NBC's Bryan Williams, the Apple CEO said:

When I go into my living room and turn on the TV, I feel like I have gone backwards in time by 20 to 30 years. It’s an area of intense interest. I can’t say more than that.

If the thinking of Apple engineers is along the lines of everything else Apple does so well, with great focus on product design and on the Internet and apps, (yet something that's a leap beyond the current Apple TV), then a serious question arises.

How can Apple build a next generation HDTV system that instantly telegraphs to a broad range of potential customers, who may be put off by an overly complicated smart TV, that this product serves rather than vexes them? How can Apple convey to the user that they don't have to be a technical wizard to enjoy the benefits? How can Apple create that instant "aha" feeling that this is a new path forward?

What's of interest to consumers, according to the IHS study, is advanced display technology and good prices. They simply aren't thinking about the software and infrastructure that delivers content. They may well be afraid of that part.  They know how to use a DVR - no changes desired.

If Apple is going to propel us forward, it will have to deliver something so delightful, so easy to use, so intuitive, that people will say to themselves, "We should have had that all along. I want that. I think I know how to use that. It looks like fun."  Maybe it's time for the non-app app.

That's a serious challenge, but Apple may be the only company on the planet that can do it. Maybe someday soon.

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6 Comments Leave Your Own

JörgS

People don´t know what they want until you show it to them.
A new “TV”-userexperience is the key. TV´s, as we where used to it until now, may not exist any longer.
A “TV” will be a device to perform audio-visual content in it´s widest range (coming from all kind of sources).
The challenge is, to integrate all these sources into a very smart and easy to use userinterface.
Remember Steve Jobs xy-chart, when he introduced the iPhone to the world.
That was a very cool and intuitive understandable way to explain the state of the smartphones at that time, and where to Apple wanted to lead the way.
It´s the same with todays “smart” TVs. They may be somekind of smart in comparison to simple TVs of the longer past, but they are way more complicated to use. So, it´s the same as it was with Smartphones until january 2007. When Apple will launch a Smart TV, it will be way smarter than todays “smart”-TVs and it will be way more easy to use!
And because nowbody want´s to buy near unusable stuff, people stating, they won´t be interestetd in buying a smart TV (thinking at smart-TVs, as they know them by now).
But when Apple shows them, how smart a smart TV can be, and how easy it can be to use, and of cause, how beautiful it can be, when Jony Ive had his hands in play, then they will want one, I´m shure.

webjprgm

Problems with TV systems:
- On-screen menus and buttons on remotes are hard to use and navigate.
- Content comes from a wide array of choices and requires the user to manually switch inputs to hunt for it.
- Disparate A/V components do not interoperate well. Even when the standard includes passing meta-data (like whether overscan is on) not all vendors implement that part.

More problems with Potential Apple Solutions:
- The AppleTV as a box cannot sufficiently control the experience.
- The AppleTV remote is too slow to control the experience, especially typing in YouTube searches with just arrow keys.
- The iPhone remote app requires a user to have an expensive phone, fumble around on it to find the remote app, and then the experience is still quite bad. (Swiping to navigate is worse than tapping arrow buttons.)
- The AppleTV’s UI is still much harder to use and much less feature rich than an iPad or a laptop. (So I always use those and AirPlay the content to the TV.)

Possible solutions:
- They have to make the TV to completely control the experience.
- All A/V devices and content have to flow into the TV that Apple controls, so they can make a better UI for selecting content to show.
- The Wii remote is actually quite nice for selecting options and typing things. It would be nice to have something like this as the new remote control.
- Siri or some other type of voice control, though it would have background noise issues. Where’s the microphone? Maybe in the pointer wand remote?
- If they don’t allow inputs and outputs to other devices than no serious A/V person could replace a TV and home audio system with an AppleTV. It needs to interoperate with current A/V equipment.

After all this, then we finally get to the challenge described in this article of convincing customers to buy it.

webjprgm

I do know what I want.  Perhaps Mr. Jobs did / could have thought of something even better so when I see it then I’ll realize that’s what I wanted all along. But I definitely know how to make a TV system better than what I can currently buy.

oneof52

@webjprgm:

What you said.

iJack

It has to be voice activated. Has to be. Even when it’s off.

You’re on your way out the door for a dinner party. At the last minute, you remember, and turn and say “Siri, record ‘The White Queen, tonight,’ and it does.

Or you could ask it, “are there any sci-fi movies on tonight?”  Later, you might say, “Siri, hold on, I need a potty break,” and Siri pauses the show.

FlipFriddle

iJack and webjprgm are in the zone here. That’s what needs to happen to get traction is to fundamentally change the TV experience. Something as powerful or more so than what TiVo did. I still don’t see this as being a TV though, but more of a control center; more like a voice activated MacMini with scads of AV jacks of all kinds. Basically your entertainment AI.

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