Rumours about an Apple TV crop up at least twice a year. No, not the existing Apple TV set-top box, but a literal HDTV (often referred to as the iTV) made by Apple.
Trouble is, the rumours are always wrong. Apple is not making an HDTV. If Apple announces an Apple TV, it will be an upgraded Apple TV box you plug into your current HDTV. You will not be seeing a 55in or 65in screen that looks like an iMac or an Apple Cinema Display.
Apple is holding a press event which kicks off shortly, and if they prove me completely wrong I will recant, throw myself upon the mercy of my readers and editors, and evenly distribute all of my culpas. But it won't happen.
Apple has always been in the business of refining imperfect designs in markets that haven't found their niche yet. The iMac was the first really successful, refined all-in-one computer. The iPod was the first successful, refined MP3 player. The iPhone was the first successful, refined smartphone. The iPad was the first successful, refined tablet. There were devices of these types long before, but in all four cases Apple was the company that put out something that made everyone say: "Oh, now I get it. I'll actually buy that."
Remember, not everyone is tech-savvy, so Apple's refinement and accessibility made those devices appeal to more than technophiles like me.
HDTVs are established. They're accessible. They're utterly ubiquitous at this point. More importantly, they're easy to use. If an HDTV is connected, the Wi-Fi setup is simple and anyone can watch Netflix within minutes of unpacking it. If an HDTV isn't connected, users can just plug one cable into a Roku box or Blu-ray player and they're ready to go. HDTVs can do things that were unheard of 15 years ago, but they're even easier and simpler to use. There are fewer cables, clearer on-screen prompts, and friendly guides to walk you through what you want to do.
HDTVs are already refined and successful. They're here. They're popular. There isn't much more Apple can do to make them more appealing.
What if Apple gave HDTVs its unique design aesthetic that worked so well with its iProducts in the past, I ask for you rhetorically? It won't be much more of an upgrade from the already beautiful premium screens with completely flat glass surfaces, nearly non-existent bezels, chrome and silver highlights and bases, and increasingly streamlined interfaces. The work is already being done by other HDTV companies.
What if Apple finds a new and innovative killer app everyone wants on their HDTV, I again ask for you rhetorically? These are apps every major HDTV manufacturer has been working on. Companies like Samsung, Panasonic, LG, and Sony have been experimenting with motion controls, voice controls, gesture controls, customisable menus, integrated media libraries that let you search across multiple services, and face recognition. Other companies have been working on the research for years. Unless Apple finds a truly unique way to change how we use HDTVs, the most it can offer is iTunes and AirPlay integration to HDTVs, and even then it would find more success in licensing AirPlay to other manufacturers to let you stream content directly to their screens.
Apple's past successes have always been about making the complicated simple and accessible, and the technical attractive. That's already been done and is being done with HDTVs. There's much less room for Apple to succeed in the HDTV space than there is in tablets, media players, smartphones, and all-in-one computers. Apple already found success there because no one else really "made it" in those categories until Apple showed them a few tricks and convinced everyone that those categories work. HDTVs are here, they've been here for years, and they're constantly getting attractive new designs and useful new features. There just isn't anything for Apple to do.