Skip to main content

The real point of an Apple TV

There has been a fuss over a Wall Street Journal articlewhich was written earlier this weekthat discusses how "TV will be Apple's undoing." I read it hoping for some insight into this assertion, only to discover that apparently an Apple TV (as in the rumoured large screen Apple-branded TV set) is not about Apple TV at all. Really, it's about how fanboys assume "the company can do for TV what it did for music," that being disrupting the existing distribution model.

The writer, Holman W. Jenkins Jr, goes on and on about content deals as if the whole idea of Apple TV is like iTunes reselling MP3s. Jenkins says this strategy makes no sense to the TV folks since the TV industry is unlike the record and even the book industry.

Everyone is chiming in with various commentaries. I think the whole premise is daft. In fact, if Apple is planning on doing a weird iPod-like device for television, it is indeed doomed to fail. But who says that's what it is doing?

How about this: A TV set to compete with the likes of Samsung, complete with the same sort of Internet access you get from most of the set makers today. A built-in Roku or Apple TV box, if you will. Who says this is a giant iPod?

The bottom line here is that Apple is approaching 400 retail stores across the globe, and these stores need products to sell. It could develop and promote a super-definition, gorgeous LED/LCD television with some typical over-the-top Apple features. The set could even be dual-branded and made by Samsung. Maybe it carries a really large panel and sells for a couple of grand. That's it; no more, no less. Although maybe one or two surprises, like adding a built-in camera and making it compatible with FaceTime.

Every business and family could use it to video call with others around the country. There are lots of possibilities. But to think that a device like this is going to be established only for some sort of iTunes content play is unlikely.

I've been to Apple Stores and there are plenty of places it could show off a line of TV sets. Selling direct instead of going through any distribution would make it a more competitive proposition. Over the years, as I've promoted the idea of an Apple TV, this is what I've been talking about – not some re-invention of the TV set itself. Apple does not have to reinvent everything it touches because not everything needs reinvention. And the TV set is one of those things. Nobody is complaining about it.

Apple has lots of stores and it will be adding more. It needs to add some other branded items to balance the store. The sales of its current offerings will be steady but will no longer grow like they did initially. iPod sales are flat. The iPad is not killing it anymore and the company should bring out a different form factor to add to the mix.

Apple has what many consider to be the top product design team in the world. It needs something to do. This means taking everyday products like a TV set and gussying it up with better design and cooler features. I think these guys could do the same thing with a vacuum cleaner and maybe they should. In the meantime, bring on the Apple TV!