Don’t Hold Your Breath for a ‘Jesus TV’ from Apple
Apple fanbois are salivating again, and TV Media are hopping on board in the midst of the reports Apple plans to start making the best televisions ever after reviews of Walter Isaacson’s new biography on Steve Jobs.
“He very much wanted to do for television sets what he had done for computers, music players, and phones: make them simple and elegant … ‘I’d like to create an integrated television set that is completely easy to use,’ [Jobs] told me. ‘It would be seamlessly synced with all of your devices and with iCloud.’ No longer would users have to fiddle with complex remotes for DVD players and cable channels. ‘It will have the simplest user interface you could imagine. I finally cracked it.’”
Even before Jobs’ death, persistent rumors about Apple making actual televisions stopped me in my tracks from upgrading my now 8 year old television. But even if the rumors turn out to be true, unless the interface is “Siri” (voice controlled) enabled, I’m not any more excited by the potential than I was before. I’m in it for the picture quality and that it’ll surely be the prettiest thing in my living room if the 27″ iMac is any gauge.
But I don’t buy the “magic interface” stuff unless it is actually voice controlled. Even if it is, I’m not that excited because you can probably bet the farm there’s one thing that will absolutely not be built into the televison: a DVR. For me, and probably most of the 42% of households in the U.S. that have them, that’s a problem. Because even if the television is Siri controlled, if I can’t say “fast forward past the commercials”, it won’t be magical for me. I’m sure it’ll be pretty and I’ll love it all the same, but I’m not preparing to be blown away as I was when the iPhone was launched.
Years after the iPhone launched, Apple’s foray into set-top boxes remained a hobby, and I agree with Jobs’ rationalization – with cable companies basically giving away set top boxes it’s hard to compete by selling one (ask TiVo, its numbers certainly back that notion up). Indeed, game consoles have made far, far more headway into your living rooms than anyone selling a box that does something TV-specific.
Back in 2007 when the first Apple TV set top boxes were launched, I was disappointed because I figured if anyone could make the DVR simpler, it was in fact Apple. But the intervening years have convinced me that Steve Jobs or no, Apple doesn’t have any interest in DVRs. DVRs are counter to Apple’s effort to sell you episodes of TV shows for $1.99 and $2.99 (HD) a pop. For me, that’s a nice backup strategy in the case of DVR or human malfunction, but if I still need a remote to control to operate my DVR, it’s going to be a Logitech Harmony One, even if the TV is the prettiest thing in the room.
Don’t get me wrong, I sure hope Apple does launch a television and not just because it’ll be the prettiest thing in my living room. I’m sure it will be at least a little better than attempts from Google/Sony/Panasonic/Sharp/Samsung etc. to build Internet streaming into televisions, and progress is progress. But I’d expect evolutionary, not revolutionary progress.
One more thing… don’t hold your breath for Amazon streaming to be available on it.