Apple’s HDTV: Just a Big iPad

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.