Advanced Television

Apple: Still no TV awakening

September 10, 2015

There’s a lot of whooping at Apple product launches. As the analysts and reporters are unlikely culprits (though I do know some journos who are worryingly hard line Apple adherents), we have to assume the uncontained excitement belongs to staffers. I suppose it’s hard to not to drink the Kool-Aid when you’re on the payroll.

What, we must ask, would happen to these emotional employees if Apple actually did come through with a TV proposition on anything like the scale that is always rumoured in the run-up to the latest revelations. There had better be respirators and chest paddles on hand.

But, as usual, the danger of hyper-ventilation was avoided by a thoroughly underwhelming unveiling. New Apple TV looks nice (of course) and has some interesting features, not least a very aesthetic ‘glass coated’ remote with swipe functionality for search. It also has Siri for voice control, which is OK when you’re on your own (assuming it works), but will give a whole new meaning to family arguments over the remote and what to watch. He who shouts loudest?

A lot of emphasis was put on the games capability of the TV. Of course, games consoles is another area, like TV, where Apple has ceded the market to others and needs to play catch up. Is making the purchase of a TV set top necessary to the playing of games likely to do this? Given that Microsoft and Sony have massively established games platforms that do double duty as set tops, it seems unlikely.

Apple has admitted it has always treated TV as a bit of ‘a hobby.’ If this was meant to convince us those days were gone, it needs to try harder. There have been rumours of content negotiations and ‘skinny bundles’ to tempt cord cutters to the Apple ecosystem. We have to assume those talks, such as they have been, have gone as well as Google TV’s equally protracted content negotiations. Clearly, content owners remain wary of platforms whose passed form is in profiting hugely from leveraging others creativity.

At least one thing hints at Apple’s seriousness about the TV proposition, the price: $149-199 depending on storage. It recognises that breaking into a market demands a very different pricing approach to one you dominate.

The rest of Apple’s product launches were in areas they dominate but have slipped back in. iPhone accounts for 65% of revenue and profit, and so getting the nuanced upgrade right really counts. iPads are next in importance and Apple has been losing share to more business-friendly tablets, and so now there’s a pad with a keyboard and a stylus – or pencil as Apple have it. These products made Apple the most valuable company on earth and by comparison TV definitely is a hobby, some might even say a distraction.

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