Apple was, it seemed, somewhat late with the 4th generation 1080p Apple TV that shipped in October of 2015. Not delivering at 4K device at that time could be forgiven because High Dynamic Range (HDR) specs hadn’t been formalized during its development. But for the holidays of 2016, most all the 4K/UHD TVs have HDR. The new Roku Ultra has HDR. So what is Apple thinking?
Apple, according to CEO Tim Cook, has an intense interest in TV. To quote Mr. Cook:
“I would confirm that television has intense interest with me and many other people here.
Apple, by the way, always builds the best product it can. So when I think about Apple having an intense interest in something, I tend to think about both accomplishment and joyful products that amaze and delight.
What I keep coming back to is that Apple has involved itself in what I would call Imperial Entanglements. By that I mean that the TV industry is complex. There are many players who all protect their IP and have strong agendas. And so, when Apple plays in in this arena, it’s pitting itself against the vested interests of many entities, all with seasoned executives who know how to maximize revenues and look out for themselves. Is that a place where Apple can flourish?
Remember when Apple tried to develop a subscription service? It would have undercut the interests of networks, but Apple felt that its impressive stature would convince others to go along with them. Apple TV would be the wave of the future.
The result has been a new TV app that doesn’t support Netflix. Plus, we have an Apple TV that doesn’t have the Amazon Prime movie app, presumably because Amazon and Apple aren’t getting along well enough to strike a beneficial deal for both parties.
Amidst all that, Apple isn’t exactly threatening to put Roku out of business with a world-class set-top-box with 4K/UHD, HDR10, perhaps Dolby Vision, optical audio and a stunning industrial design. Roku is the market share leader amongst these devices, and by necessity, always has the best and latest in technology. They have to. Roku acts like a company that’s hungry and works hard to maintain its position. Its customers a loyal and love them for that. As Lily Tomlin once said, Apple is the phone company. It doesn’t have to care.
In TV, the Best is Advanced, Flexible, Expandable, Competitive
In fact, Apple seems totally disinterested in building fabulous hardware that fits in with lots of different kinds of home systems and has the capacity to get us excited.
Apparently, another year will pass as millions of customers upgrade to 4K/UHD, and one of the first accessories they’ll buy is a 4K/UHD/HDR Roku player.
Meanwhile, Apple always seems to be struggling to get its act together on the app side and has to settle for incomplete, less than thrilling content deals and technical arrangements.
A healthy part of me wishes Apple would just build the coolest, best TV hardware on the planet—an impressive and attractive platform on which other content providers want to play.
Right now, I don’t see how Apple’s “intense interest in TV” and its legacy of always building the best is being achieved.