15
Dec 11

Apple’s guaranteed revolution

As Apple has well proven, revolutions have a cumulative effect.

The success of iPod created all that anticipation for iPhone, which caused even more hype for iPad, which will now start generating ultra-hype for… iTV. (Let’s not worry our little heads about what Apple will really name it given the iTV network in the U.K.)

But the point of this post isn’t that iTV is going to break the pre-launch buzz records, it’s that iTV will have a very tough time failing.

First, there’s the Need Factor.

iPod and iTunes were needed. Buying and enjoying music was a mess and no one else was stepping up to the plate.

iPhone was needed. It entered a market filled with villains and devices that were as complicated as they were ugly. We couldn’t wait for Apple to save us.

iPad was a glorious revolution, but we weren’t sure if we needed it. Indeed, some of the lukewarm response to iPad’s launch came from people who just didn’t get why it was a big deal — until they finally got their hands on one.

iTV is needed. Wow, is it needed. Like iPhone, it will enter a market where the choices are confusing, and the current batch of TV makers and retailers are their own worst enemies.

I know, because I just finished a few weeks of living the adventure. I would have waited for iTV, except my now-dead TV didn’t leave me that option. So I dived into the process.

I really don’t know how normal people can shop for a TV intelligently. It’s utterly impossible to compare models. The names are indecipherable, and the models you see at Best Buy might not even be on the manufacturer’s site. (Seems there are a number of retailer-exclusive models, like there are in the smartphone world.) And good luck figuring out what some of the features even mean. Buying a TV requires some serious study if you’ve been out of the market for a few years.

Don’t shoot me, but I ended up with a big Samsung “Smart TV.” Only problem was, it wasn’t nearly as smart as I expected it to be. Either that, or I wasn’t nearly as smart as it required me to be.

The setup screens were cluttered. After several false starts, my wireless network finally showed up, but then it offered me four different flavors of WEP security options. I hadn’t a clue which one applied to me, so it was trial and error until I found one that worked. Other issues kept cropping up until I finally got it working right. Overall: tedious and annoying.

It’s hard to imagine an experience more ripe for Apple-ization. I haven’t a clue how iTV will work, but it doesn’t take a whole lot of brain power to figure it will offer:

1. A simplified TV shopping experience. Maybe one or two screen sizes and just a few configuration options.
2. A simplified setup experience. Plug in, see network, connect.
3. A simplified control experience. Thank you Siri, via iPhone or iPad.
4. A simplified content experience. A way to break free from the cable companies’ predefined packaging.

No matter how I imagine iTV, it’s hard to imagine it not being a full-scale revolution, possibly Apple’s biggest yet — simply because the need is so obvious and there are multiple TVs in just about every home.

And I may have a good deal for you next summer on a used Samsung.

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  • Kesey

    This just seems like it’d be a logistical nightmare for Apple. Would Apple stores have space for TV’s in inventory? Would they need to offer delivery?Installation?

    Apple products typically come with Genius Bar support. Will they need to extend that and offer phone support?

    I’m all for Apple pushing the envelope, but it usually does so with great design—be it physical product or user interface. The TV space doesn’t seem to have issues in the physical design department (my Samsung LED is gorgeous), so it seems like they’d have make inroads with great software which would unfortunately be overridden by the need for a cable box.

    Siri to control a TV also sounds like a terrible idea. I can see it now. If you’re not putting your TV on mute before you want to change the channel, you’re doing it wrong.

  • LAViking

    @kesey

    Your point of view is shortsighted. If you think Apple will release a TV without addressing those issues you’d be wrong. C’mon, muting? Really? That limited line of thinking is why innovation in the TV space has waned and why manufacturers are struggling.

    Time will tell.

    CV

  • Kesey

    @ LAViking – if you couldn’t tell by the “you’re doing it wrong” line, I was being sarcastic in that last paragraph.

    I understand these are all things Apple could overcome. The question is will they want to and will it be profitable. Again, I think the biggest issue is logistics, including inventory management of boxes that are a lot larger than what Apple is used to. Sounds like a costly endeavor and I’d be willing to bet they stick with an Apple TV like ad-on device or integrate TV into the iMac.

  • TV is a too old and too various market (price range from $100 to $10,000). While the numbers might still be relevant, I think Apple product might end up staying a niche (almost a hobby). But I am sure it will make many people happy, like you Ken! ;)

  • Bmcfadden

    I bought a 55″ flat panel to attach to my hi-def Tivo last year. It was $1,500 at Costco, and is gorgeous.

    I worry the TV market will be too slow on the uptake for Apple. Even if they nail the interface and come out with a revolutionary offering, I think I am good for at least 3-4 more years … As are most people who have upgraded to HDTV flat panels in the last few years.

    I will never underestimate Apple’s ability to create desire, but in this case it is going to have to be off the charts to get me to open my wallet.

  • el gato

    WEP? … tsk tsk tsk.

  • Matt

    Hey Ken,

    Assuming you saw this article, but incase you missed it…

    http://www.forbes.com/sites/onmarketing/2011/12/14/the-real-story-behind-apples-think-different-campaign/

    An awesome story, and a nice mention of you!

  • Stacy

    There are probably enough early adopters/Apple junkies (like me) with the disposable income to jump on a 1st Gen iTV or whatever it may be called. Plus, the reputation and brand loyalty Apple enjoys right now is off the charts and will serve them well whatever they may do next.

    We bought a 55’’ Samsung in 2010 and, along with the Apple TV, we love it. But I don’t put it past Apple to introduce something that makes all that look pretty pedestrian.