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Summary:

Apple’s television plans are the subject of plenty of recent speculation, and are raising a lot of questions in consumer minds. From the questions I’ve heard about the rumored iTV, here’s a list of five things Apple needs to do to shake up the space.

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Apple’s television plans are the subject of plenty of recent speculation, and are raising a lot of questions in consumer minds, as I found out Thursday while guest-moderating a live Q&A at The Washington Post. Questions raised there, along with my own thoughts, led me to this list of things Apple needs to do to make a truly disruptive standalone TV:

1. Not just apps, but an app store. The current Apple TV has apps. They aren’t advertised as such, but the menu options that lead to MLB, NBA and NHL subscriptions, as well as the Vimeo and YouTube channels are basically apps. While doling out new apps in batches via software updates is appreciated, a real app store is the special sauce that will cause an Apple television to take off.

2. High quality live content. Live video could go a long way toward convincing users to switch ponies and abandon traditional cable or satellite providers for streaming video. Apple has done a good job of bringing sports to the current Apple TV, but it’ll have to deliver pay-per-view events, nationally broadcast live programming, and still more sports to sway users who demand to be kept in the loop and don’t like spoilers.

3. Break the bundle. The aspect of current cable and satellite TV packages that makes them most unpalatable is the bundle; If you’ve ever tried to order a speciality channel on its own, you know exactly what I’m talking about. Breaking up the bundle would probably be the most effective way to tempt users to buy its product, but it’s the part that Apple will probably also have the hardest time striking deals to achieve.

4. Games. A lot of the questions I’m seeing about an Apple television have to do with games. The reason? IOS did (and still does) an amazing job of generating high-quality gaming experiences at a fraction of the price of consoles. Suddenly, people who always thought picking up a controller was a waste of time and money are flinging things at other things like there’s no tomorrow. If Apple can translate its iOS gaming success to an integrated television, iOS gamers will flock to it.

5. Stand-out hardware. One question during today’s Q&A stuck out in particular: Why would Apple make a television set when it could just make a better box? The reason is another potential selling point; specifically, Apple could only justify making its own TV if it makes that TV really amazing. Apple definitely has the pedigree, since it produces industry-leading displays on its mobile devices, computers and computer monitors. Make a TV that dazzles and really looks great in a living room, and you’ve got a big buying incentive right there.

Siri integration and a unified content browsing and playback experience through iCloud and the iTunes media ecosystem are things that could make an Apple television interesting, but they won’t set an industry aflame. That’s what the five points outlined above could do, by reaching out to consumers and providing them with outstanding experiences in areas where a lot of current service offerings fall flat.

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  1. Why would Apple want to make the UK TV station ITV better? :-)
    Anyway, sounds like you just described the Fall update to XBOX 360.

  2. Oliver Hoffmann Thursday, November 3, 2011

    The new iMac will be the new Apple TV, it will be able to boot into iOS… that’s what I think. It would be unlikely for them to come out with an overpriced HDTV. Spending $2500 on a 30″+ iMac is not so far fetched though.

    1. Interesting concept!!

  3. Right now, Roku is eating Apple’s lunch. A Roku has many more channels compared to Apple TV. Also, Roku lets you make your own channel. That is, any company or person can have a channel on Roku! These private channels generally do not not show up in the Roku channel store but, if you know the code for a channel (gotten from a web site usually), you can activate it on a Roku.
    Hmm, that sounds familiar. Apple needs to let developers create channels/apps/whatever you want to call them, for Apple TV if it is going to have any chance. Many times I have seen an app for an iPad or iPhone and thought “That would be great to have on my TV and/or my iMac too!” But there was no way to buy it for Apple TV or a Mac.

    1. There’s a reason why Steve Jobs said Apple TV was a hobby.

    2. Think you are underestimating that the Apple TV already has these features – all you need do is turn on screen sharing from the iPad.

  4. Apps are not the way to go on a Television set. They serve no purpose but to pander to the companies behind them and make the experience for end users frustrating through a term I call ‘App Hopping’.

    That is, you have Hulu, NetFlix, iTunes, YouTube, Amazon and other countless companies with their content, and each residing within a different app. Then the user wants a film to watch, or they have a generalised interest they wish to discover… it requires ‘hopping’ and searching through all these apps. That is not the experience people want on a TV set.

    What we want is something that collates and feeds content out there under generalised interests that is not app specific. My sister is interested in Glee… she doesn’t care if the episodes come via NetFlix, the music comes via Rdio and the images are from Picassa… she just wants to see that stuff without jumping in and out of apps and performing countless searches. (and using an OSK on a Tv is awful!).

    1. Agree, but won’t someone just come up with an app to do that!

    2. Google TV provides a unified experience – very similar to the one you talk about. Search and play – the source doesn’t matter. The downside is that they don’t have a lot of content.

  5. Apps are not the way to go on a Television set. They serve no purpose but to pander to the companies behind them and make the experience for end users frustrating through a term I call ‘App Hopping’.

    That is, you have Hulu, NetFlix, iTunes, YouTube, Amazon and other countless companies with their content, and each residing within a different app. Then the user wants a film to watch, or they have a generalised interest they wish to discover… it requires ‘hopping’ and searching through all these apps. That is not the experience people want on a TV set.

    What we want is something that collates and feeds content out there under generalised interests that is not app specific. My sister is interested in Glee… she doesn’t care if the episodes come via NetFlix, the music comes via Rdio and the images are from Picassa… she just wants to see that stuff without jumping in and out of apps and performing countless searches. (and using an OSK on a Tv is awful!).

    1. Well said, David.

  6. No, Apple doesn’t need to do anything that you ask for. They will do what they want to do and fanboys will like it.

  7. iFartTV apps- larger farts on TV, oh great this Apple hobby

  8. If a requirement of an iTV app where to have all content listed in a unified database so that a users can do a search across all app content then app hopping doesn’t matter. Think integration not imitation of existing paradigms. Combine that with a Siri voice search, and you have over come much of these hurdles. Push the Siri button on the iTV controller , or on your iOS device, say “Dancing with the Stars” and iTV lists all the apps/channels where that content is available, then tell Siri which one you want to use, and boom you are there.

  9. Artyom Dogtiev Monday, November 7, 2011

    Content, content and one more time CONTENT. It’s relatively easy to image how Apple’s software and hardware design may look like but the idea of iTV ,or what ever name it may have, won’t take off unless Apple will succeed in delivering content the way people have been waiting for being able to consume but other companies have failed to provide this experience. According to the Steve’s bio said in an interview that he’s cracked the TV idea. In a while we’ll see what exactly he meant.

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