Apple’s HDTV: Just a Big iPad

| Analysis

Apple executives rarely lob softballs to pundits and the rumor mill. But Jobs posthumously floated a whopper by allowing Walter Isaacson to quote that he “finally cracked it,” in reference to a mythical Apple HDTV. Some decent pieces have been written about the features an Apple HDTV could have and the content partnership doors it could open, but I think the specific nut Jobs was referring to is iCloud.

After efforts from companies like Apple and Google, TVs are still notoriously difficult, or at least annoying, to program. How are we going to find, subscribe, customize, and manage all our Apple HDTV content? With over 250 million iOS devices on the market, chances are that we’ve done all that hard work already, and iCloud would be the bridge to sync it all to our Apple HDTVs.

An Apple TV could be an iCloud gatewayApple’s secret TV weapon: iCloud

It’s a safe bet that an Apple HDTV would be powered by iOS, Apple’s consumer electronics ace in the hole. iOS could be the foundation for a “complete experience, not just a device”, as Dan Frommer writes, likely leveraging newer features like FaceTime and possibly Siri that would require Apple to build an entire TV set, not just a $99 add-on box.

Gruber nails how the Apple HDTV could stand out from the competition with the Newsstand-like “apps are the new channels” approach. We’ve already seen great innovation in video and mixed media iPad apps from big third-parties like HBO and Bloomberg. Blow those up for the big screen and ‘app as a channel’ approach not only becomes obvious, but also daunting in some respects.

Think about it: with everything an Apple HDTV could do, it could very likely be an even bigger pain to program and manage than your current TV, cable box, and DVR. But products like Google Docs have helped customers get used to their files being ubiquitous.

Now, streaming music services and iCloud are broadening those expectations to more of our media, saved game states, and even our preferences for how apps should behave. Since Apple HDTV customers likely own an iOS device or are at least familiar with the iTunes Store, Apple can help them completely skip the tough usability challenge of programming living room appliances by leveraging the personalization work we’ve already done on existing devices.

The Apple HDTV could be “just a big iPad,” and iCloud is the key. After you type in your Apple ID, the Apple HDTV could automatically bring over all your favorite apps, channels, service credentials, and preferences into a seamless, enjoyable post-TV experience in your living room — and that really is one big nut for Steve Jobs to crack.

Comments

Lee Dronick

I still have trouble with the idea that Apple is going to sell “TV sets” instead of a “box” similar to what we are burdened with from the cable providers. Unless Apple is only going to offer 2 or 3 sizes or TVs it could be a nightmare of choices. Not to mention the floor space requirements in Apple Stores, though the devices could be sold in other retail stores.

Anyway it will be interesting and I am can afford to wait to see what shakes out. Currently I only have analog cable TV service plugged directly into several CRT sets and that meets my needs.

mhikl

Namaste, David

Intuition sometimes needs a little jolt for stimulation and recognition. Wasn?t it Edison, sitting by the fire place with a nut in his hand ready to clank onto a plate as he passed into a snooze? What you intimate is stimulating rumination. Yours is a meditative piece and the nut has fallen.

Om

macgecko

Sounds like a very cool idea if it worked. Now what would make it killer is if you could choose the channels you wanted and record just those shows. I for example spent a lot of time blocking sports and other junk channels from my DirectTV and I would rather not have to pay for something I will never use. smile

Ross Edwards

I for example spent a lot of time blocking sports

There’s your problem right there.  If you don’t want to watch live sports, you really don’t need cable or satellite TV.  EVERYTHING ELSE on television is available for free OTA or via some sort of internet-connected app, device, or website, or via DVD if you don’t mind not seeing it immediately upon release.  In fact, at least SOME sports are broadcast on local OTA HD, so you don’t even need cable or satellite for that either.  If you’re having to actually BLOCK sports from a cable or satellite subscription, the subscription is very likely superfluous.

I’ve got a set of rabbit ears ready to go up as soon as DirecTV stops offering me retention credits extending my service for free every 90 days. (shrug)  Does anyone actually pay their asking price anymore?  I haven’t had to give them a red cent for almost a year now.  It’s pretty nice.  I suppose they figure I may change my mind at some point—but why would I do that, when better free options keep emerging in the market?

John Elberling

i would think you might have noticed that, with AirPlay Screen Mirroring, your TV (plus an Apple TV) ALREADY IS a “big iPad.”

and eventually pundits will also realize that having two screens to work with at the same time - the iPad in your hands while you sit on the sofa, and your big screen TV across the room - is a much better UI and far more powerful setup than trying to do everything on the TV alone.

check out Real Racing HD. Check out Bloomberg TV. get a clue! two screens are better than one.

webjprgm

Apple HDTV would break the one-user-one-device mantra.  The TV in a house is used by everyone.  So I don’t want my personal email on the TV, and I don’t even want my saved game state on there.  I do want to have the same games if I can, but I want to be able to log in/out of my personal account so nobody else messes with my average score or makes my character die.

Otherwise, definitely bring on the big iPad.

and eventually pundits will also realize that having two screens to work with at the same time - the iPad in your hands while you sit on the sofa, and your big screen TV across the room - is a much better UI and far more powerful setup than trying to do everything on the TV alone.

You mean like how Nintendo is realizing this? grin

Plus the remote control for the TV will then be either a $299+ iPod Touch or a $500+ iPad.  Now there’s a good way to get margins!

skipaq

Apple studies consumer buying habits. I can see them offering an upgraded Apple TV box. I can also see them offering a few of the most popular larger screen sizes with A-TV built in.

As far as personal email, game scores and such; if this is tied to your personal iCloud account there will not be a problem. In fact every person in the house can have their own set up for these and even their own favorite channels.

I can hear it now: “Will you get off the TV so I can make a facetime call!”

OTA

There?s your problem right there.? If you don?t want to watch live sports, you really don?t need cable or satellite TV.? EVERYTHING ELSE on television is available for free OTA or via some sort of internet-connected app, device, or website, or via DVD if you don?t mind not seeing it immediately upon release.

Not without commercials and at a reasonable price ($2/episode is not reasonable IMHO).

mhikl

Think about it. What David is alluding to turns the iPad into a real interactive TV and expanded in size would make a great TV*. It could be hung on a wall or set in a stand. It could come in practical sizes. Would be incredibly thin and possibly no more pricy than TVs today. The cloud would eliminate DVD, Blue Ray, USB stick and any other add ons. It could support wireless connectivity to a hard drive system for storage of fav programmes just as the old Apple TV does (though it must be physically connected) or from your computer and best of all with iCloud. So you could watch whatever on your iPad, iPhone/touch, iPhone, computer, iTelevision/ iScreen. It might come with some fanciful remote, use your other devices, touch etc., and or voice. Though you might call up info on the screen, on your iPad might be a better choice (as suggested John E) whilst watching whatever. And you could choose what to watch and what to pay for, what to get for free, what to watch with commercial. No more crapopoloous programmes packages. How many nickels per consumer does each TV company get from re-broadcasters? That should bring pricing into the land of reasonable.

*TV Sizes: 9.7?, 27?, 32?, 40?, 60? all using iOS; and we know how small the innards to an iPad or MBA are. There should not be need for iterations to perfection. The iPad is the best gizmo, best thought out experience I think Apple has ever come out with. iPad 1 was a little chunky, but iPad2 and what will follow are pretty perfect in size and design. No one wants to purchase a TV knowing that the specs and shape are going to be iterated again and again over the next five or six yeas. This may be why Apple may not be coming out with anything too soon, but will, soon enough. And all the others will jump in saying how it is so obvious, anyone can do that.

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