Blog » Thoughts on Apple TV

I love my little Apple TV. The last television accessory that showed this kind of care and detail was the TiVo, and I gave that up when I ditched cable TV in 2007. But as the rumors swirl about Apple releasing an actual LCD television I wondered about the point of it. Aren’t our current televisions acceptable as they are? What would Apple do differently?

Grand feature

When expanding into an existing market, Apple likes to bring one grand new feature that nobody else has. I’m thinking specifically of the iPhone’s capacitive touch screen. What would that be for televisions? We’ve already got 3D (which nobody likes) and 120 hertz displays (which have zero native content for them). What would make Apple’s TV stand out?

My guess would be a 4k resolution display. Apple’s shown their prowess with high resolution panels, and they could boast they’re bringing the director’s vision directly to your screen with no compromises. It would require Thunderbolt cables and would spur the home theater industry to move past HDMI. It would also set a new record on price gouging as Thunderbolt cables are astoundingly expensive even for short distances.

Fixing problems

Quick, what’s wrong with your TV? What don’t you like about using it? Or does it all come naturally after spending your entire life gripping a remote control? Here’s a few things I expect Apple to address.

Changing inputs is terrible. Modern televisions have up to half a dozen inputs for DVD players and game consoles. Why do I have to remember which one is which? Why does the TV even allow you to switch to inputs that don’t have any signal? Why is the menu usually a list of the input names (HDMI 1, Component 2) rather than a video preview of what’s being shown on that input?

Imagine television inputs working like Spaces or Mission Control on the Mac. You press a button and it shows a grid of live video stream from all active inputs. Then use the directional keys to pick the one you want. Even people like me who obsessively cable their electronics can’t be bothered to remember which input which goes to which device (I have a Logitech remote control for that).

Most televisions have tons of settings for picture quality, sound boosting, and so on. Expect an Apple TV to get rid of all that, or keep only the most vital options in a simplified menu. I love to tweak my computer, but all the advice I’ve read online for televisons says to reset to factory default and adjust very lightly. I’m okay with that.

Integration

More of what the current Apple TVs do now. Stream videos, play radio, mirror iOS devices. An App Store would do very well on an Apple LCD TV, though you’d have to specialize in games rather than to-do lists. Integration with iPhones and iPads is obvious: they could be controllers if their wireless capabilities were tweaked to match the responsiveness of the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3. What if the TV itself was a base station?

I would be very surprised if an Apple LCD TV was touch enabled. That would truly make it one of a kind, but people had enough trouble rearranging their living rooms for Kinect. Huge touch screens are great, but someone touching a TV would be blocking everyone else trying to watch.

Controls

An iOS app, and probably a small physical remote, but the big revolution for an Apple LCD TV would be Siri. Imagine the current tiny Apple remote with a Siri button. All your control issues melt away if the user can talk to an intelligent TV.

  • “Switch to Comedy Central.”
  • “Play the new Batman trailer.”
  • “Are there any comedies at nine o’clock tonight?”
  • “Bring up last year’s pictures from Mexico.”
  • “I want to watch basketball.”
  • “What’s Jim Carrey’s newest comedy?”

Siri on the iPhone is okay. In the car, ehh, who knows? But Siri on TV would be amazing.

Marketing

How would Apple pitch this sort of television to the supposedly heavily entrenched flat screen market? The way they always have: novel features and a compelling price.

Imagine a 55” TV with more pixels than four HDTVs. Imagine a TV that seamlessly plays all your iTunes music, movies, and photos. Imagine a TV you could talk to, that would change channels and find shows like someone else is working the remote.

Then imagine $2,000 vacuumed out of your wallet.