San Francisco – Every night, I get home from work, drop onto the couch and sit there surfing
the Web or watching videos on my 3 1/2-inch iPhone screen. My big-screen HDTV sits powered off
on the other side of the room.
It isn’t broken, either – well, at least not in the traditional sense.
It’s actually brand new. When I moved here last year I decided to treat myself to a fancy
new television. Off I went to Best Buy and after an hour of catatonically staring at dozens
of massive glowing screens, I came home with a 46-inch Panasonic LCD TV.
Since then, I think I’ve used that television 10 times. The idea of turning it on,
powering up the external speakers, starting the Apple TV or Xbox, telling the TV which input does what,
or flicking through some traditional TV channels, makes me anxious.
It’s the same feeling I get when I think about sifting through a pile of bills.
What is broken is the entire television experience. I have two remote controls for the TV and
speakers with more than 40 buttons each. (I don’t have cable or TiVo; if I did,
I’d have even more buttons to worry about.)
What makes this even more peculiar is that television makers know that a pink elephant
dragging $100 billion in a suitcase, by the name of Apple, is trying to squeeze its way
through the front door and into the living room.
Last week Apple added upgrades to its Apple TV box, with new channels and an app-like interface.
It didn’t amount to much, as Apple announcements go. The company has gone back-and-forth over Apple
TV being a business or a hobby. It’s apparent that it’s a business and Apple TV is the training wheels
for an actual television. This is a placeholder. The company has always proclaimed that it must own
both the hardware and software experiences to create the absolute best product.
The Apple TV is really just the software, and only a bit of it.
What will the Apple television look and act like? Imagine the simplicity of your iPhone
with instant-on and thousands of apps, but just make it a 60-inch screen instead of 3 1/2 inches.
Something also tells me that both those screens will talk to each other, too, and draw the
iPad screen into the conversation.
So why is it that Samsung, Sony, LG and other TV manufacturers seem like they’ve given up making
the next best thing since sliced bread and are just making the bread slices thinner?
“These companies are trying to figure it out, they just don’t have the ability to make these
things work,” said James L. McQuivey, an analyst at Forrester Research.
“They definitely believe it will happen — that Apple will make a television —
but they are not just competing with hardware, they have to think about content too,
and that is not something TV makers have ever had to do before.”
Apple has an advantage with its army of independent developers who make apps for the iPhone and iPad.
They will make all the difference.
I prefer my iPhone over my television because it allows me to consume and create on the same device.
I’m immersed in it.
If it were a TV, I could leave comments on YouTube clips, send Twitter messages in the middle of a
show or movie, and most importantly, share the content I like, or dislike.
The winner in the living room won’t be decided by the size of the screen, or how thin it is
hanging on the wall. Just like the smartphones and tablets that exist today, those “features”
will quickly become standard.
Instead, it will come down to apps and the software that ties them to the hardware.
And as we have seen with the iPhone and iPad, Apple knows how to rattle sleepy industries.