Does it make sense for Apple to get into the cut-throat television market?
The Apple rumour mill is focused on the iPhone 5 at the moment, but it won’t be long before the pundits turn their attention back to the mythical Apple Television. Steve Jobs supposedly “cracked the code” to creating a simple television interface, but his ideas are yet to see the light of day. It’s true that Jobs’ Midas touch revolutionised the smartphone and tablet markets, but could it do the same for televisions?
Of course it’s already easy to access Apple content on your television courtesy of a tiny Apple TV media player, hooked up by an HDMI cable. Don’t be fooled by the name, the Apple TV doesn’t actually let you watch or record live television broadcasts. Nor does it include a CD, DVD or Blu-ray player. All the Apple TV does is let you hire movies and TV shows from Apple, as well as stream content from your iGadgets or iTunes running on your computer. Naturally Apple wants to stay within its ecosystem and spend your entertainment dollars in the iTunes Store.
The Apple TV is a one-trick pony but, to be fair, it performs that trick better than pretty much any other lounge room gadget. If you’re looking for a simple way to rent movies from the couch it’s pretty hard to beat the Apple TV. If you live an iCentric lifestyle then there’s probably a spot for an Apple TV media player in your lounge room.
But the question still stands; why would Apple want to get into the cut-throat television market? There’s no money to be made in selling televisions and people don’t replace them every few years as they do their smartphones. Read the headlines and it’s clear that even the big name brands are struggling to make money selling televisions.
The fact is that televisions have become commodity items, as all hardware does eventually. The real money is in selling content — movies and TV shows you can enjoy on that widescreen giant you picked up for a song. Apple seems to understand this, offering the cheap Apple TV to put you in touch with Apple’s iTunes Store. Surely any amazing feature that Apple might build into a television could simply be built into the Apple TV.
So what does Apple have to gain by slugging it out with television makers? Perhaps Apple’s concern is that television giants such as Sony, Samsung and LG have also realised that the money is in content. They’re cutting Apple out of the picture by building movie rental services straight into their televisions. By putting all these entertainment options at your fingertips, they’re eliminating the need for set-top boxes such as the Apple TV. That’s bad news for Apple.
So maybe Apple isn’t getting into the television market because it wants to sell televisions, but simply because it wants to stop you buying someone else’s televisions. As the online entertainment revolution gains momentum, Apple wants to make sure it’s not left out of the picture.