Will Apple Make a Television?

So here goes the foolish debate about whether or not Apple will ever build a television.

People have been talking about it for years. At one point, it was said to be Steve Jobs’ final victory in the making, but it never happened for him. Hell, even Tim Cook has discussed it openly from time to time.

Last week, Cook himself said, “TV is one we continue to have great interest in – I choose my words carefully there – but TV is one of those things that, if we’re really honest, is stuck back in the ‘70s. Think how much your life has changed,” he said, “and all the things around you that have changed, like Home Automation and Audio Video, yet TV when you go into the living room to watch TV or wherever it may be, it almost feels like you’re rewinding the clock and you’ve entered a time capsule and you’re going backwards. The interface is terrible, I mean it’s awful. You watch things when they come on unless you remember to record them.”

But the notion that Apple could swoop in, perform a miraculous revolution and change everything in the same way it did with digital music and the iPod is a fantasy.

Cook, to his credit, hints at this notion when in the same interview he says, “The hardest decisions we make are all the things not to work on, frankly. Because there’s lots of things we’d like to work on, that we have interest in. But we know we can’t do everything great”.

The margins are not there in TV productions. Companies aren’t making money on TV’s in 2014. In truth, most big wigs are loosing money. We’re talking about large brands like Samsung and Sony with great products that Apple, in the sense of quality, would do well with competing.

If Apple did make a TV, they would have to buy its angles in from outside and develop from scratch all of the picture processing complexities that Sony, Samsung and the rest of the big wigs have already developed. The fact of the matter is that once the word got out that Apple had to buy in the hardware from someone else like Sony or an LG, any small hope of making a profit on the hardware at this point would diminish.

Manufacturing a TV doesn’t coincide with what Apple has always overcome in new product areas. No matter where you go, a phone is basically a phone and a tablet is basically a tablet. iPhones, iPads, MacBooks; they’re all the same almost everywhere. You can make them, ship them having to make minor changes as required per country. However, you can’t do this with TV’s. You can make a TV and ship it wherever you want and expect them to work.The tuners are the first obvious obstacle – OTA broadcast standards are different everywhere, even between neighboring European countries. So different countries would need different tuners and processing innards to match.

Then as well as many different forms of OTA, you’ve got cable TV, satellite TV, IPTV, catch up TV. In the UK, you’ve got services like Freetime and YouView for going back in time inside your Freeview or Freesat EPG.

They all require a different approach to an EPG interface, and most TV markets in Apple’s target areas are equally divided among this wide-ranging spectrum of choices.

An Apple madeTV would have to negotiate this smorgasbord of differentials and come out with a clean interface and magic experience to match that of iOS. We’re not sure it’s possible.

And what size screens would Apple make? One size fits all works with TVs even less than it does with smart watches – and again, clearly Apple has shown with its Watch that it’s wise enough to recognize that.

Equally, when you know you have to shift a lot of products in order to get your money back, locking a TV down to work exclusively with iCloud, iTunes and iOS devices as per Apple’s recent preference, would be suicidal.

The world of television isn’t simplistic enough for Apple to dive into; too messy and not profitable for Apple to risk involving themselves with. Apple in savvy and innovative enough to know this, but it would take an unfathomable investment to push an Apple brand TV off the ground. Especially for something that could never make any money.

Posted in