Over the past few years the smartphone industry has exploded into a very competitive market. When Apple first introduced the iPhone back in 2007 it completely demolished all expectations of what a smartphone should be. Apple re-wrote the rules and it took a while for the competitors to catch up. Now, the playing field is a completely different place. Apple is no longer competing in a market without competition. In addition, the iPhone has kind of lost it’s momentum. There’s nothing wrong with the iPhone, just like there isn’t anything wrong with a new iPod. Unfortunately, both items are considered nice to have but don’t spark much in the burning desire department. So what next? Apple will need to start focusing on another market with less competition. Enter Smart TV.
Through various interviews Tim Cook has mentioned that Apple was “Intensely interested in TV”. There is a whole new market for TV’s that support an Apps based platform. Some Android devices have messed around with this realm, but all attempts seem sorta halfhearted. The first company to execute a TV system with a great OS platform that can handle Apps stands to make some serious dough. A few problems exist here though: User Interface , network megalomaniacs, and the cable box.
All of the current attempts at creating a media TV capable of internet and other neat media features seem to have issues with the User Interface. Put simply, It is not easy or enjoyable to control these interfaces using a scrolling wheel, keyboard, and any other standard solution used for computing. The key to a great OS powered TV is creating an interfacing method just as revolutionary as capacitive touch was to the smartphone. Fortunately , a technology exists that could potentially fix this issue. Motion Control like that created by Leap Motion. For those that haven’t been reading along past postings (How Dare you!), this video should get you up to speed:
The first thing that came to mind when I saw this technology was “This would work great for the living room.” It makes sense though, technology like this would make operating UI interfaces on the television just as simple as the touch interface on a tablet or phone. The only challenge here is having the sensor a bit further away. I think it can be done.
The big problem here is Network megalomaniacs. We’ve all seen the battle between the networks and the providers. Direct TV recently had a highly publicized standoff with AMC. The problem is people are addicted to television and this empowers the networks to make the rules. This antiquated business model is something that needs to change with the rest of the world. Why are we paying for hundreds of channels we don’t want to watch in order to watch one show we like one day a week? Imagine going back to paying for one crap album for a single good song. This is a world of on demand. Why should the focus be on the DVR when the technology exists to watch everything instantly. I’ll commend Netflix for pioneering into this realm, but it’s obvious that networks are quite stingy with good content if you’ve ever tried searching Netflix for movies made in this decade. It’s obvious that a new model needs to emerge. A model similar to the 99 cent song.
Those that use an Apple TV may have come across the option to buy TV shows for 2.99 a piece. This means you would be paying $24 bucks a year to watch a single season Dexter. So we’ll make the assumption that it costs 2.99 for most television for an hour of viewing. The average american spends a whopping 32 hours a week watching television. Given this cost model, Americans would spend $5000 bucks consuming the same amount of content as they get from networks. we’ll be conservative and assume that they may watch reruns half of the time. So maybe they might spend $2500 or a bit over $200 monthly. This is the problem. In order for content on demand to be viable this cost model has to be reduced substantially. Which means a company with big muscle needs to have a talk with the networks to work something reasonable out. In other words, A new kind of subscription service needs to come to fruition. Subscription has to be reworked in order to give Apple the freedom to create good things. This starts with eliminating the set top box and providing the content at a reasonable price. Giving Apple a direct line to the content gives them the freedom to manage the content and open it up for interfacing with apps. Once this happens, very cool things will start to blossom.
So there you have it! My long term prediction, Apple will work out it’s own subscription service that will replace the need for cable TV and open up content on demand. This content will be open to an iOS SDK and developers will be able to create apps for anything from scheduling to interactive viewing. The Apple TV will become the new Apple staple product. The iPhone will be another necessity.