Blog Post

Why Apple should build a 24-inch touchscreen TV for your kitchen

Just in time for this week’s iPad event, rumors about Apple (s AAPL) building a TV set started popping up again. The company announced no such plans at the event, but that won’t stop fans and analysts alike from forecasting that Apple will unveil plans to take over the living room any day now.

But is that really what Apple should do? Margins in the TV space are thin, consumers only buy a new TV every five or seven years. And there’s no sign that Hollywood and the pay TV industry are going to allow unbundling, or even just Apple taking over Comcast’s UI, any time soon.

That’s why I’d like to propose a different product: Instead of trying to go big in the living room, only to compete with established players like Samsung and Vizio, Apple should go small, and target the kitchen with a 24-inch touchscreen TV.

The case for the kitchen

If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably found yourself using the iPad, or any other tablet, in the kitchen quite a bit. I like to watch the Daily Show when I wash dishes, catch up on video podcasts when I cook, and of course use the web as my cookbook. Only I find myself constantly frustrated by the experience.

Cooking is a great time to watch something in the background, especially during those many little breaks where you essentially just wait around for things to finally become edible. At the same time, you’ve got to have your recipes accessible, and you don’t want to constantly switch from one thing to another, especially once you get your hands dirty.

As a result, I’ve started to use two tablets in the kitchen. One for entertainment, one for recipes. It’s a completely ridiculous setup that takes up way too much counter space, and frequently results in the need to clean tomato sauce off of not one, but two screens.

Cooking for the iPad works, but it's not a great experience.
Cooking for the iPad works, but it’s not a great experience.

Some of you might suggest I should just get a Surface, but that’s still not enough. What I want is a screen that’s big enough to give me access to both the information I need and the entertainment I want without having to make the choice to turn one of the two into a sidebar. A permanently mounted one, so it doesn’t get in the way. A touch screen for quick interaction, and voice control to help out when I don’t have any free hands.

Of course, Apple wouldn’t be the first one to give the kitchen a shot. HP has been trying to get its touchscreen PCs into America’s kitchens for years.  But in the end, these machines are first and foremost computers, and you don’t need keyboards, spreadsheets or CD drives in the kitchen.

At the same time, there are plenty of things that computers are just so bad at that Apple could easily own this space by just offering a few extra features. Like, for example…

The family whiteboard

I know what you’re thinking: Isn’t a 24-inch touchscreen TV just a giant iPad? Yes, with a key difference: The iPad is mobile, an Apple kitchen TV would be mounted in place. That fundamentally changes how a device like this would be used. Even if shared, mobile devices are personal, and there is barely ever a strong connection between utility and location. A display with a bigger screen size on the other hand is necessarily communal, and a fixed location dictates usage patterns. That’s why you sit on your couch when you want to watch TV together.

The TV in your kitchen could double as your shopping list.
The TV in your kitchen could double as your shopping list.

But make the display more approachable and interactive, and you got yourself the perfect canvas for a whole range of additional functionality. One is the family whiteboard. The 24-inch TV in your kitchen could easily double as your grocery shopping list, or the space where you leave quick scribbled messages and video recordings. Sure there’s an app that does all of that on your phone, but what if your kids don’t have a phone yet? How are you going to leave a message for the baby sitter, or the person watching your house while you go on vacation? In other words: What is going to replace the sticky note on your fridge?

The personal news feed

When TV and set-top box makers think about the future of television, they envision giant displays that cover our living room walls, offering up both linear TV and personalized news feeds. Local weather, the morning commute, headlines and news clips to topics that matter to us.

A wall-to-wall TV screen, as envisioned by NDS.
A wall-to-wall TV screen, as envisioned by NDS.

That may well be the future of TV sets, but for now, big screens remain very expensive — and big touch-screens are completely out of reach for years to come. So why go big if you could display a lot of the same information on a smaller screen. And why display all of that information in the living room if everyone is crowding in the kitchen every morning anyway?

The command center for the connected home

I actually had a spirited debate with Stacey Higginbotham, Gigaom’s resident internet of things expert, with regards to this point, on our internal discussion system. Stacey believes that the connected home shouldn’t need a command center. I think a single screen, located centrally, where you can go to check your home’s vitals, and quickly adjust the air conditioning, make sure that you’ve turned off the light in the garage, or take a peek at other sensors would be great, and help people to get more comfortable with connecting everything. Plus it would place Apple at the center of the house, which is a pretty great place to be for the company.

The window connecting you to your loved ones

Real-time communication is another great use case for a stationary display. Imagine that 24-inch kitchen TV with a microphone that’s always listening for hot words, and a camera that’s always ready to jump into action and establish a connection to your partner’s kitchen. Or the house of your parents. Or anyone else you care about, and would love to be closer to.

A mounted display could turn Facetime's one-off communcation into ambient telepresence.
A mounted display could turn Facetime’s one-off communcation into ambient telepresence.

Vancouver-based video startup Perch has been working on this kind of ambient telepresence for a while. The company initially wanted consumers to mount iPads to their walls, and establish a direct connection as soon as you’d look into the camera. Perch recently changed course and is now using the same technology to connect distributed work spaces because it found that consumers just don’t want to dedicate an iPad solely to becoming a telepresence device. But give them a device that offers enough other functionality and that’s already mounted in the right height, and you may just have a killer app at your hands.

It’s an Apple problem to solve

We know that Apple execs like Eddy Cue like to read Gigaom, so I’m going to add one more argument to the list: An 24-inch Apple TV for the kitchen wouldn’t just be great for consumers, it would also be great for Apple, because it would once again allow the company to boldly innovate.

Instead of trying to build a slightly better version of a product that everyone already has in their living room by developing a television, Apple should do what it did with the iPad: invent an entirely new product category, and make something that people didn’t even know they needed, but definitely want once they see it.

Family picture courtesy of Shutterstock user merzzie. iPad in kitchen picture courtesy of Flickr user Robert Couse-Baker.  Shopping list picture courtesy of Shutterstock user Roobcio.

25 Responses to “Why Apple should build a 24-inch touchscreen TV for your kitchen”

  1. It’s such a new think to adjust your T.V in kitchen room.There are lots of benefits of this idea.Women has watch there favourite programs in kitchen time and also learn some thing new dish with the help of kitchen programs.

  2. I’m guessing none of those commenting below have kids? Again, there’s a huge disconnect between people in the industry and those who use the technology day in and day out. Screens on the fridge are too small and then you’re stuck with an old technology long before the fridge gives out. White boards continue to be central to family communication. One would think that we would all just share a calendar, and we do, but there’s something to the psychology of the “note on the fridge”. Having an interface that is visually appealing and connects ONLY to what I need for functioning with two kids in school, clubs, volleyball, etc. would save my life. My other devices hold multiple functions and it gets mentally exhausting to shift between “work” and “home” on my phone and device. The kitchen is quite seriously the only spot we are all in on a regular basis and it would be much more tranquil to have a larger screen on the wall so I can check a recipe, write notes about PTA meetings, and check the weather.

  3. Vincent Livoti

    Janko I think it is a great idea not sure if Apple would be the one to do it. Sounds more like a Linux project. I have some ideas on how to make this happen contact me on my linkedin page.

  4. Voice-controlled in the kitchen is fine – touch screen – not so sure…

    Would you really want anyone to touch the screen to go to the next page of a recipe immediately after handling some ingredients, say, raw chicken? …and then touch the same screen again half an hour later when working on a desert? You may have thoroughly washed your hands after handling the chicken – but if you touch the screen again afterwards when working on something else you don’t cook…

    Doesn’t sound like a good idea… Any interaction with a recipe or other material should be touch-free in the context of the kitchen…

  5. Davin Peterson

    We definitely do not need an Apple TV. Apple already unfairly dominates the market with it’s smartphone and tablets, which they did not invent. Android is better. Samsung makes TVs. So any Google or Android TV will do just fine. I hate that everything is Apple this Apple that all time.

  6. Johnny Slapstick

    Stupid idea. 24″ is too big for the kitchen. Use an iPad. It doesn’t need to be bigger. How an I supposed to carry it from room to room all day? Why would I pay $2000 for something that is just going to sit in my kitchen and only get used twice a day?

  7. Søren Hersdorf

    I used to have a 16″ Dell touchscreen laptop in the kitchen. Ruined both food, screen and keyboard. Threw it out of the kitchen after 3 months. Stay focused and be where you are.

  8. I think what might make more sense is a bigger iPad, though not 24 inches. There have been rumors of a 13″ iPad for a while now, and I could see something even bigger.

    If it had a stand to prop it up, it might make a great workstation when combined with a Bluetooth keyboard.

  9. Craig Ralton

    No that this is really an idea, but why give an idea to Apple or any company? they only deserve their own innovation, not yours. Besides, this is already do-able with MS Surface pro 2 and many other devices.

  10. A great idea! Apple should also build a toaster that will read your mind and make toast exactly the way you want it. And how about a pot that will automatically cook a perfect 3-minute egg? Maybe a pasta maker that will automatically cook spaghetti to exactly the right texture.

    Any other great ideas?

  11. KCHA Weather

    I’m not sure you realize that Apple doesn’t make such a specialized product for a small market lie that. Honestly, I don’t even understand why people want them to make a TV. Apple’s strength is the interface. Who cares who makes the TV’s. Plug in an AppleTV device for $100.


    I’d rather see a 30″ 4k display and plug two of those into a Mac Pro.

  12. Apple would sell exactly one of these; to the author of this article. Family news feed? It’s called notifications, and we all get them in our own devices. “Hey everyone… Let’s go to the kitchen and touch the screen and get potato chip grease all over our family communication device…”

    Lame. Use what’s in your pocket like everyone else.

  13. This logic is so 10 years ago and that’s one market that all in one PCs targeted.
    Problem is, the window of opportunity closed, tablets are cheaper and more mobile.