It appears Apple is working on some device with a screen size that is larger than today’s iPhone, yet smaller than an iPad. Many of us have also been waiting in anticipation for what could very well be the next big thing in television. But what if these stories are all related?
I have personally found the screen size of today’s iPhone to be too small for browsing television guides, Netflix(s NFLX) movie listings and my own personal iTunes(s AAPL) media library. I may what to
read reviews, check out cast lists, and even review a trailer or two on my device before suggesting it to the rest of the family. The size of the screen is much better on the iPad — that is until you try and take control of your home theatre system with it. It is simply too heavy and awkward to continuously use as a television remote.
But what if this new “in-between device” was more than just a content-browsing device or media playback controller? What if it is the manifestation of the “television” Apple has reportedly been working on? There is actually some sound reasoning that the latest rumors regarding Apple’s purchasing displays in a new range of sizes would be best suited for a new way to interact with the next generation of television:
- Internet television without the wires. Getting away from set-top boxes, Apple is looking to re-define the way that we interact with the television set. Screen-based touch gestures is a given, audible Siri voice commands is doable and camera-interpreted motions may also be on their way. But having the data entry point closer to one person lounging in a darkened viewing room makes more sense than placing such a control embedded inside a television all the way across the room for everyone to gesture or shout at.
- Closed platform helps control the market. Something else that is unique to Apple’s current Apple TV platform is that is it not open to developers. This can initially be a good thing for content providers, as it does not allow just anyone to create a new channel or media outlet. At first, existing content providers would be given an opportunity to create and deliver content in a similar fashion as “apps” on the Apple TV are done today. And why not open the platform to developers? There just may be a new pre-packaged development API in the works. Eventually this could evolve into a similar content packaging framework akin to Apple’s iAd Producer, Newsstand feature, iBook Author or even the same method used for creating an iTunes LP or podcast today.
- Exclusive list of supporting television vendors — at first. AirPlay for video is just too good to keep exclusively to yet another set-top box. And like all new product announcements with Apple, there is typically a short list of early adopters that come on board. Similar to the way that AirPrint and AirPlay (audio) has been catching on with printer and speaker manufactures, AirPlay (video) could be adopted by more and more television manufactures. This would mean that this new Apple TV with a screen would not need to be tethered to an open HDMI port — it would stream content directly to the television using AirPlay, just like iOS devices do today through the Apple TV.
- Create new products rather than fragment existing ones. Since the Apple TV platform would continue to be closed to developers, this would actually help prevent fragmentation of the existing iOS platform and allow Apple to develop a completely different form factor for just the AppleTV. Existing iOS developers would not be required to port existing apps in the App Store over to a different screen format and possibly a different user experience. It would make more sense to create a common content delivery API based on the uniqueness of this new platform.
Buying up large quantities of a particular size of screen does not necessarily mean that Apple is coming out with a new form factor for an existing product line. It could very well mean that we are about to see a new product altogether. And it is just as likely that this new form factor will be the new Apple TV as it is likely that Apple will come out with a mini iPad or a jumbo iPhone. Perhaps this new in-between form factor is what Steve Jobs was referring to when he claimed that Apple had “cracked the code” when designing a new way to experience television. Who needs a table full of IR remotes when everything you need is right there in your lap?