Back in October I predicted that 2012 would be the Year of Television. At the time I believed that Apple would soon release a revolutionary, all-in-one television. Here’s what I said:
“The Apple TV of my dreams will have a Siri-enabled voice interface that makes finding, recording and watching your favorite television shows a breeze. This will solve perhaps the biggest problem with TV today, namely that there is so much content that it is often hard for consumers to discover it. Apple TVs would also include a front-facing camera for making FaceTime video calls to friends and family, further embedding television into our lives.”
I had no empirical evidence for this prediction, and Apple is famously secretive about its product roadmap. Instead, I just had a gut feeling that after tackling other consumer technology devices like the computer, MP3 player, phone, laptop and tablet, Apple would naturally set its sights on the television.
Since the publication of my column, there have been a few tantalizing signs that an Apple television product may, in fact, be coming soon. First is the statement by Steve Jobs himself, published posthumously in a biography by Walter Isaacson, that he had solved the riddle of the TV:
“‘I’d like to create an integrated television set that is completely easy to use,’ he told me. ‘It would be seamlessly synced with all of your devices and with iCloud.’ No longer would users have to fiddle with complex remotes for DVD players and cable channels. ‘It will have the simplest user interface you could imagine. I finally cracked it.’”
Then there is the recent report by analyst Peter Misek that Apple is utilizing Sharp, the television manufacturer, to produce LCD screens that will be available as soon as February. If true, this would mean that Apple televisions could be available by the middle of next year.
Here are some other reasons why I think an Apple television is imminent:
Solving another big problem. Apple isn’t so much an inventor as a problem solver. Many of the original Mac components -- the mouse, the user interface, etc. -- were appropriated from the work of the Xerox PARC engineers. MP3 players existed long before Apple released the iPod. The iPhone and iPads improved upon existing smartphones and tablet computers.
What Apple has been really good at is reimagining current consumer products and making them elegant and easy to use. If there was ever an existing product that needed such treatment it is the television. Between the horrendously designed remotes, the space hogging set-top boxes and the lousy onscreen software, the average TV technology stack is a confounding mess to most consumers.
With its combination of devices, software and media relationships that all work well together, Apple is uniquely positioned to make the large screen a significant part of our digital landscape.
It’s something new. Apple introduced iPhone in 2007 and the iPad in 2009. If Apple is going to keep up its momentum, it will need to release a major new product by the end of next year.
A chance to put on a big show. In early October, Steve Jobs passed away and handed the CEO torch to Tim Cook. Now Cook needs to demonstrate that he can be more than just a caretaker CEO -- and successfully launch a big, new product. Given the importance of this introduction, though, my guess is that Jobs will be invoked in some way. If he didn’t prepare recorded remarks prior to his death about the product, then a nod to Jobs’ involvement will surely be noted by Cook.
If Apple does launch such a product, it would not be the first major technology company to take up the task of seriously updating the television. Microsoft, Google and others have all made their pass at the device, with little success. Other startups like Boxee are also trying to change the way we interact with television. But in my view, only Apple has the scale, skill and consumer permission to usher in a new age of television.
Hopefully, by this time next year, Apple will have launched a revolutionary new television -- and we’ll all have the device on our Christmas wish list.