What is Apple’s perfect recipe for the living room TV experience? The tech industry has been asking itself that question since rumors of an Apple-branded TV set started circulating months and months ago. While ‘iTV’ rumors have died down recently due to the iPhone 5 and iPad mini hype, Apple has quietly been trying to work out licensing deals with Hollywood for a mysterious iCloud, TV-ish service. Will it be baked into iTunes, the current Apple TV, or come packaged in a totally new device? These are the questions.
While Apple’s real plans are obviously shrouded in mystery, there’s a very strong case to be made for using existing ingredients to make the TV experience Apple ultimately desires. The recipe is actually a lot simpler than you may think. An Apple TV set-top box and iOS device may be all it takes.
Barclays analyst Ben Reitzes spoke with AllThingsD about how he sees Apple approaching the TV space, and his argument is compelling:
“With iCloud, we don’t see any reason why Apple wouldn’t eventually allow an iPad to be an interface for the TV — to perform basic computing tasks with a virtual keyboard like checking emails and calendars, surfing websites, editing your PhotoStream and even chat with iMessage,” Reitzes explains. “These tasks would clearly infringe further on tasks usually earmarked for desktops and laptops — and the iPad and Apple TV combination doesn’t even require Apple to get into the TV market.”
There are arguments to be made on both sides for Apple creating a standalone, ultra-expensive HDTV set. A pro of selling a HDTV is that Apple would control the entire user experience, including the screen itself. Apple has always been about the marriage of software and hardware. That approach makes sense in this case as well. Awhile back Cult of Mac reported that Apple is indeed prototyping its own HDTV set, but who knows if the project will ever see the light of day.
“The iPad has the potential to be the best universal remote ever.”
The problem with a standalone iTV is that people don’t upgrade their TVs very often. Would Apple really be willing to invest that much into a product that will only be bought by a customer every 4-5 years? Most people wait about the same length of time to buy a new Mac, so possibly. However, it make more sense—at least initially—for Apple to just focus on the software and use existing ingredients.
The iPad has the potential to be the best universal remote ever. The iPhone 5’s larger screen real estate also makes it a compelling remote for interfacing with a TV. Apple has a Remote app for controlling iTunes and the Apple TV, but I’m talking about something more. Once the licensing deals are worked out with the major studios, Apple could simply turn the current Apple TV hockey puck into a beautiful hub for streaming and playing back live broadcasts. Think about how wonderful an Apple-designed TV guide interface would be. Software and content is all Apple really needs to create the experience people want. The iPhone and iPad could be the only other ingredients that are needed.