Apples part of the shifting Television screen.

There has been a lot of speculation this month about Apple TV, changes that make it more than a “Hobby” for Apple, including :

  • re-branding it as iTV -even though that is already a British TV network called ITV. Could the simply license its name to Apple, like what Cicso did with the iPhone?
  • running the same iOs as the iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad – rather that OS X as the current Apple TV and Mac mini do.
  • the talked about $99 price point seems designed to get it in people homes and it much cheap the the current Apple TV price of $229.

We do know that Apple is holding ‘special event’ September 1st.
The invitation shows acoustic guitar with an apple-shaped sound hole, which has some to believe the device is wireless but I think that the Cloud based iTunes will be launched.

It is worth going over the interview with Steve Jobs at the All Things Digital conference this year in June, and in particular what he said (and didn’t) about TV (video)

Nonetheless there is lots of room to speculate about:

  • Because it running a iOS, does this means running it on the same Chip as the iPhone and the iPad, the Apple A4? I have heard that the current chip design can not do 1080p decoding very well, so their may be a change there. Also this device does not have the power and battery considers that the mobile iPad/iPod/iPhone have so I would expect a heftier chip but with the limitation that it needs to be cheap (given the price point).
  • Having access to all those iOs application on your HDTV will be amazing and gives Apple a entry into the Gaming platform world. XBox and PS3 watch out! (and expect another price drop on those boxes!) But, will you be able to use a iOS mobile device as a controller?
  • I expect it will have a Apple Remote Control, but will it also allow (via a app) to be controlled with a iOS mobile device. the iPad as a remote!
  • I don’t expect it will happen, but it will be interesting to see if it has a port to connect your incoming Cable with, and someway to decode the signal. If Apple is serious about replacing your cable box, and reduce box, wire and remote clutter, then this will be there. If there is a Cable connector than I expect it will also allow the Apple TV to act as a PRV.

    There is also a big opportunity to change the TV program grid. View by actor, by director, share play lists of my friends (making TV a social activity again but a very different one), like this episode then : download the next episode from iTunes, the sequal from NetFlixs, buy the music.

    The counter argument to having it act a Cable and PRV device is that it runs counter to the digital bit’s model of getting you programs (in the tv entertainment sense) via itunes or NetFlix or even standalone apps. So Apple may not see it as something it wants or need to do, but it would be a big step in reducing the box clutter.

  • I really do not expect the new device to had a Buy-ray drive or even a DVD drive. Again because it’s counter to the digital bit’s model
  • Speaking of getting your TV Programing directly via App’s, there is speculation that the TV Networks might be interested in having App’s (a NBC App for example), by passing the cable companies (for the TV side at least, but not the Internet broadband access aspect), and monetized either with a free access but with Ads (Apple iAds), or an Ad free subscription la carte model (only pay for the TV stations you want).

    The more interesting aspect of this would be if it allowed independent content producers to do deals that cut out the big distribution networks (like NBC, HBO, etc) and the cable companies! Look at what he original web series “The Guild” has done. Would you pay for access to a “Joss Whedon” channel app? a “The Sopranos” app, a “Aaron Sorkin” or a Lady Gaga app for that matter. Lots of potential for celebrity driven and / or niche market content to be distributed and monetized closer to the creators.

    So in the short term this would allow the Networks to do an end run around the cable companies. This would have a big impact on the Fee-for-carriage debate. But in the longer run (which could be very short in this new environment!) to could allow content creators (certainly the established ones) to do a end run about the TV Distribution networks. This is what is happening in the music industry.

  • Integration with MobileMe would seem very desirable, so I can view and share photo’s on my HDTV, with friends and family
  • I wonder it they might but a “front facing” camera in the device to enable video chat functional? FaceTime TV? Also useful if they what to do fancy motion controller ( like Kinect for Xbox 360, also know as “Project Natal”) like things in future software.
  • iTv has been the suggested name for the device and that was actually the name that Apple TV was originally release under, but other moniker’s come to mind, depending on how ambitious Apple is, : iMedia; iPlay; and iHome.
  • And for that matter they need to be re Brand iTunes to something else. iMedia ?
  • In all of this Net Neutrality (how will your cable internet provide feel about you streaming TV once your stop paying your cable bill?) and bandwidth caps (what do you mean I can’t watch CSI, or my American Idol App!!) are going to become a very big issues. As will DRM.
  • Another point is that for all the (deserved) controversy around the iPad being a media consumption device and not a computing device, the TV has always been a media consumption device. This (might) make it a bit more interactive, a direction it’s being slowly going towards for 20 some years, but this (might) go it a big speed up!
  • Hopefully the Sept 1 event will also mean that the iPod Touch goes A4, retina display, back and forward cameras. a gps chip would be nicetoo to but I doubt it.
    It get a early start on the iPhone games, I going to say that next years model with support the next generation 4G phone network tech as well as GMS and CDMA, possible be dual core, and might have a Near Field Communication (NFC) or RFID function. It needs to be out on multiple carriers. It might be call 4G N (for Next)

So there is lots of room of this to be a game changing platform.

The other 500 pound gorilla is this September’s Google TV launch, which is software (Android?) paired with existing TV Set and Box Top manufactures. The TV manufacture people have been pushing 3D, now that HD is mainstream and a “standard” HD TV set is a “reasonable” price, so they are very interesting in working with Google in order to stay relevant. And Xbox and PS3 platforms are not standing still, so if Apple wants to the center of your Home it needs to get serious.

The game is changing, and your TV is either going to change or disappear.

Update Post Sept 1:Okay I got a lot wrong (no surprise).
Whats good :
the price is USD$ 99
the hardware is very small (4″ square), with A4 chip, quiet and fan less.
AirPlay will let these stream movies, TV shows, music, and photos from iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad to an Apple TV.

the bad:
only 720p not 1028p high definition. this is probably a trade of of size vs quality size it is streaming and very limited storage.
No apps!! This is a big one. And the iOs is completely hidden under a tv interface.
No iOs device remote control
No name change. it’s still Apple TV.

Apple did a very conservative upgrade, no more than want they needed to do to keep in the game but its still a hobby. They could still allow App’s or Streaming of App’s from other iSO devices, and if you have several Apple devices the $99 price point will be tempting to get it, but it’s not going to bring people to Apple, do anything more the Roku Digital Video box does, and Google could steal a march on them here.

Two very good posts on this subject are Arstechnica’s Apple’s trouble with TV and Don MacAskill’s What the AppleTV should have been

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