On an Apple Television

Now that Apple has shipped all of the unicorns that people speculated about for a decade - phones, tablets, Intel chips - a bunch of new ones are emerging, amongst them an actual Apple television set.

I can entirely see the desire - navigating a typical CATV EPG is marginally less pleasant that using an audio cassette deck, and that’s before you start plugging in a DVD player, PVR and some sort of access to catchup or on-demand, let alone video from the web. 

But that doesn’t mean it’s easy for Apple to fix this. 

The killer quote in Steve Job’s answer to a question on the then-current Apple TV at AllThingsD last year: “the CATV system is totally balkanised”. There is no standard that Apple could tap into to provide a better UI for finding shows, because every operator has had to build its own EPG and backend (ad encryption, and billing, and catchup, and everything else) over the past 20 years. That doesn’t just apply to the USA, BTW - there are other countries in the world that Apple needs to sell in to make a return. 

There is no way for Apple to make a single TV that would give a single Apple UI for services from Sky, and Canal +, and Comcast, and all the dozens of other closed, proprietary systems out there. And if they don’t integrate those systems they’re just selling a piece of glass, like any other TV. 

The ‘Apple managed it for mobile’ argument doesn’t work. Apple made a standard GSM phone and bullied/negotiated the mobile operators into carrying it. But there is no standard for the parts of the TV experience that are broken - there’s no way to make a product that you can bully both Comcast AND Sky into supporting. Next to that, the other arguments against an Apple television set - replacement cycle, margins, inventory etc are irrelevant. 

Personally, I think it makes far more sense for Apple to bypass the whole issue and licence Airplay to TV manufacturers, as I said here