Sunday, October 23, 2011

Will Apple own your living room?

Rumours have been flying around recently that the last project Steve Job's was working on before he died was an Apple TV set (e.g., this article in the Washington Post). In his authorized biography, Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson, which has been rushed into print and is due to be published tomorrow, Jobs' biographer says: "He [Jobs] very much wanted to do for television sets what he had done for computers, music players, and phones: make them simple and elegant...I’d like to create an integrated television set that is completely easy to use,’ he told me. ‘It would be seamlessly synced with all of your devices and with iCloud.’ No longer would users have to fiddle with complex remotes for DVD players and cable channels. ‘It will have the simplest user interface you could imagine. I finally cracked it."
    If you think about it Apple could easily make a TV; either the Apple Cinema Display, or the iMac make a reasonable TV chassis; the current Apple TV provides the streaming content, iOS the operating system and the iPod Touch, iPhone and iPad make excellent remote controls. Apple also now has the brand cachet to cross over easily into the consumer electronics market - would people rather have the latest Sony or LG TV or an Apple? Apple's key advantage would be in it's integration with iTunes and iCloud, its intuitive user interface and it's iOS remotes. With Siri you'd be able to say things like "record tomorrow's football game." and it would. By contrast a friend of mine recently bought an LG Internet connected TV and it's remote control is a nightmare of myriad small buttons - really horrible. Google's recent foray into TV, which wasn't successful was largely brought down by a clunky interface and a complicated remote control (read an extensive review from Engadget here).
    I think the rumours are true, Apple will announce a TV set in 2012, partly because all the various components have fallen into place now: hardware, operating system, iCloud, remote control; but also for a more strategic reason. Microsoft gained preeminence in the 1980s and 1990s by putting a Windows PC on every desktop; Google came to the front by totally dominating web search; Apple plans to own your living room! They already have your music library with iTunes; Photo Stream and iCloud make managing your digital photos a brease; controlling your TV and movie viewing experience is the missing piece of the puzzle. Watch this space, your living room is about to become a battle ground.