The TV industry is taking a traditional path towards new standards and better equipment. UHD/4KTVs and UHD/Blu-ray players and UHD Internet content will all play out as usual. Apple, on the other hand, has its own vision and can't change TV as we know it by playing along. Will the plan work?
Image credit: Apple
One of the technology foils that continues to plague us is the need to change between source inputs: say, a DVR, a Roku, an Apple TV, a Blu-ray player, etc. One way to solve that perpetual problem, that for some reason, continues to perplex TV viewers is to do away with it completely.
That's the idea behind apps on the Apple TV. And universal search.
It's annoying to find the right remote or the right utilization of an integrated remote and select one of those inputs to be sent to the big screen. On the other hand, Apple customers know how to launch an app, quit an app and switch between apps. That solves the problem nicely—in an Apple TV only environment.
But what about a situation in which the Apple TV co-exists with a Blu-ray player and a DVR? Or other equipment?
My guess is that Apple would rather create a vision in which those products simply don't exist anymore. If Apple wanted you to collect plastic discs and play them, your Mac would have had a Blu-ray player years ago. If Apple wanted you to have a DVR, they'd build one. Instead, Apple is planning for the day when it can capture a significant number of customers who have cut the cord. The DVR goes back to the warehouse from which it came.
Right now, the new Apple TV is just a launching point. It so alters the TV viewing experience that millions of customers will jump on board. By and by, as Apple is able to roll out a subscription service that meets the needs of millions (but not all) home TV enthusiasts, the Apple TV environment is all that will be required. Hook it up, via HDMI, to the TV and let the more experienced customers insert an AV receiver and speakers. Switch between apps at will.
In essence, if Apple recognizes or tries to work within the confines of emerging UHD/4K systems, it cannot succeed. Apple is following its own vision and betting that enough customers will follow along that Apple makes good money. The rest of the industry can go about its traditional business. Many will take that route.
What's more, nothing will keep a smart videophile from adding an Apple TV to a 4KTV system with a AV receiver that has lots of HDMI inputs. And so, Apple gets to create its own brand of product, free of constraints, as it moves forward with its own vision and developing technology.
Am I disappointed that the new Apple TV can't output UHD/4K video? Indeed I am. But this current version, a product of its times, dwells only on what most customers are involved with, and right now, that's 1080p video. When lots and lots of content is made available in 4K, will Apple come out with a next generation Apple TV to feed us that kind of content? Certainly. And we'll have to pony up again. That's the nature of our technological era.
I just hope it won't take another three years.