By Jim Karpen on Tue, 12/18/2012
Apple's stock is swooning, actually dipping below $500 yesterday after reaching a high of $704 not so long ago. It's hard to say why, but in the long term the question lingers: will Apple be able to come up with the Next Big Thing? After reading an excellent article by Jeremy Allaire on All Things D, I'm convinced that the answer is yes. And that it will be an Apple HDTV. Allaire's points just make sense, and reading them one gets the sense that this will be an inevitible next step for Apple. He characterizes an amazing Apple HDTV that would completely disrupt the industry because it would: 1) seamlessly and intuitively combine broadcast and online TV, 2) offer an ultimate gaming console, and 2) be able to run the nearly 1 million iOS apps. Imagine the entire ecosystem of your iPhone/iPad and iTunes Store available on your TV, plus broadcast TV, plus state-of-the-art gaming with voice and motion controls — and all this using the sort of intuitive interface that Apple is known for.
The striking thing about Allaire's vision is how doable it is. It's not really anything that new, just an integration and amalgamation of disparate parts into a glorious all-in-one device for your living room. My feeling is that if Allaire can imagine this, so must have Steve Jobs — years ago.
Allaire imagines that Apple's strategy will be two-pronged: 1) all of this functionality available in a set-top box selling for $149, and 2) an ultrathin HDTV that has the same functionality of the set-top box plus beefed-up computing power. He even offers mockups of the new devices, speculating that the set-top box will be a thin bar, and that the HDTV will be like the elegant new iMacs. He says that these devices will most likely be controlled by new apps for the iPhone and iPad.
He says it's likely that Apple will piggyback with cable providers to offer its TV, just as it initially partnered with AT&T to offer the iPhone. Apple doesn't have access to broadcast content, so why not simply partner with the providers in this way? They can sell the TV or set-top box. You can imagine that the content providers would jump at the opportunity to get in on this new, disrupting technology. The net result is that Apple will be able to combine its premium, on-demand content in the iTunes Store with broadcast TV, for a rich offering otherwise unavailable.
And in an interesting twist, Allaire imagines that you'll not only be able to stream content from your iOS device, as is possible now, but also vice versa: you'll be able to stream your broadcast channels from your TV to your device, wherever in the world you are, just like the Slingbox has offered for years.
His vision for the Apple HDTV as a gaming machine is equally compelling, being able to accommodate all manner of game controllers and including the ability for collaborative gaming similar to massive multiplayer online games.
This all seems so doable. I hope it's in the cards, and I can't wait.