The dream is Apple will disrupt the TV industry the way the iPod, iPhone, and iPad disrupted portable music players, smartphones, and tablets. Instead, all we have from Apple is an official corporate hobby, the diminutive Apple TV.
‘You Can’t Always Get What You Want’
Maybe it’s best to start the analysis of the fabled Apple television with what most of us really want Apple to do as it disrupts the industry we love to hate.
Sure. We all love TV, but we hate the cable company. We want Apple to help us cut the cord, reduce our monthly TV expenses, yet give us instant access to everything on TV, live or recorded, on demand, anywhere, with a click.
Guess what? Whether Apple delivers a television set in the future isn’t important, we won’t get what we want from Apple and probably not from anyone else, and maybe not even ever.
The entertainment industry is Balkanized beyond belief, with many very important players sticking their hands into the enormous profits of TV and movie watching. We may want Apple to break up the mess, consolidate TV and movie viewing into an app, but it’s not going to happen.
Instead, television as we know it is ready to evolve more rapidly than it has in years as it adapts to the tremendous flood of portable television viewing devices. Video on demand is visible now, and more is coming, but there’s not much Apple can do to hasten the revolution.
On the quality side, the next revolution is already here in 4k, though at substantial prices. Think 1080p times four. That’s video resolution so good that even makeup won’t make some stars look like stars. It’s not hard to predict that Apple’s devices a few years down the road could easily display 4k video; Mac, iPhone, iPad.
On the information and entertainment content side, tell me of an industry that is more highly fragmented? There are more TV shows, movies, news and information programs than ever, many available online. And, there’s YouTube and the plethora of personal video wannabe operations which dot the mobile device landscape.
In other words, as fragmented and fiefdom oriented as the industry is, there’s more content being created every day, and what’s not live, is thriving as video on demand because content always needs distribution, and the internet is the easiest distribution medium of all. This is an industry that Apple can participate in because it makes devices which display content, but Apple will neither disrupt nor dominate the industry. It cannot.
What Apple can do is what it is already doing. Apple TV.
For individual users, Apple TV simply represents another seamless way to move content– whether from professionals or personal– to the TV screen (regardless of quality or resolution) from the internet, or from smartphones, PCs, and tablets.
For the content distribution industry, Apple TV could become another way to funnel the many diverse sources of content to the screen, bypassing the DVR (or incorporating a DVR into Apple TV), bypassing the set top box with a less expensive, smaller, less complex hardware device. An Apple TV from the cable TV company would be a mild disruption to device makers, but keep the monetary infrastructure intact (many shares of that revenue pie are not easily disrupted), but allow Apple to become another partner. After all, Apple has nearly half a billion loyal, satisfied customers who buy content and view content, and that should buy the company a seat at the television and movie industry table.
In the end, we may get exactly what we want from Apple TV, but it’s likely that Apple becomes a revenue sharing partner among the Balkanized players in the industry. We won’t be cutting the cable TV cord too soon and prices are not likely to go down.