John’s Rebuttal: As I’ve said before, I’m a big believer in the eventual appearance of an Apple HDTV. I believe Apple must make one in order to control the living room. According to Leander’s source, Cavins, the Apple HDTV is going to be essentially a 60-inch Mac on your wall without any inputs controlled by gestures. This doesn’t make a lick of sense to me.
First of all, the idea that the Apple HDTV will start at 60 inches is absurd; that’s simply gigantic, and it will immediately cut the Apple HDTV out of a huge number of living rooms. Ideal distance for sitting away from a 60-inch set is 150 inches. That’s thirteen feet. That cuts the Apple HDTV out of a huge number of living rooms, right off the bat. 60-inches makes more sense as a higher end model, like the 27-inch iMac, not the only choice, or even the only initial choice.
Second, his source claims that the new Apple HDTV will be a Mac. Let’s pretend for a second that OS X is a better choice for a TV operating system than iOS, an operating system on top of which Apple has already built a compelling television interface. If the Apple HDTV is a Mac, that means it needs to run Intel chips. Not only are these chips expensive and processing overkill for what a television needs to do, but it means that Apple will need to depend upon Intel for another major branch of their business, even as Cupertino has started to build their own ARM-based chips. Apple is distancing itself from Intel, not getting chummier with them. An Apple HDTV only makes sense running iOS or a new, ARM-based operating system entirely, not OS X.
Gesture controlled? Okay, that’s a possibility, but we’ve seen gesture control being used to control televisions in the wild before — specifically with the Microsoft Kinect — and guess what: it sucks. It’s unreliable and twitchy to use, and prone to making mistakes or being set off by the wrong person. Do you really want your TV to change the channel when you try to put your arm around your girlfriend during a movie?
Of course, if any company could solve that problem, Apple could, but even so, do you really want to wave your arms or have to shout when you want to change a channel, watch a movie or lower the volume? It’s disruptive to the immersion of watching a television. It’s just a fundamentally poor idea, no matter how it is implemented.
Having a television controlled by gestures or voice control from thirteen feet away just isn’t a good idea, and Apple would know this. There’s too much that can go wrong and be misinterpreted. And why would Apple favor such an approach when, instead they can leverage all of the iDevices already out there to deliver a second-screen television experience from less than a foot away? Consumers can use touch control and voice control to command their Apple HDTV from the device already on their laps, without any fear of being misinterpreted.
Even better? By taking a second screen approach, Apple can use the success of iOS devices to directly feed HDTV sales, and vice versa. And when the Retina iPad mini comes out next year, they can repurpose the lower current model as a pack-in remote as an extra incentive to buy one.
Leander’s source also says there will be no inputs. What about external sound systems? What about ethernet? The current Apple TV supports these things.
And then there’s the “no cable box” claim.
I’m sure Apple would love to cut the cable boxes out of the picture, but there’s no way the cable companies are going to let Apple actually do that. To do so would be to cede all power over the living room experience to Apple, and the cable companies have watched two other industries — the music industry and the smartphone industry — make that deal with the devil before. They are showing no signs of making the same mistake.
Whoever controls the pipe, controls the living room. Cable companies know this. Apple knows this. If Apple released a HDTV you couldn’t hook up a cable box or satellite too, they’d essentially be releasing the equivalent of a current-gen Apple TV baked into a huge screen. Apple knows there isn’t a market for that, so they need cable companies to provide their content pipe, but the cable companies aren’t going to do that unless their own boxes sit between the pipe and the TV. Hence the deadlock we’ve seen on the Apple HDTV over the course of the last few years.
So no, I don’t think this is going to happen. At all.
And besides: why would Tim Cook refer to a TV as a Mac?