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

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.


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.