Apple TV: The techie’s wish list

November 7, 2011

A one-sentence mention of the Apple TV in the authorized Steve Jobs biography has sparked a whole lot of chatter about what, exactly, Jobs may have “cracked” about the interface of the connected television.

In his column for The Washington Post, Joshua Topolsky posited that Apple TV would be valuable because it would let users beam content among their phones, tablets, computers and televisions.

Others have suggested, perhaps, that the mobile devices or voice control would replace the remote control, as Walter Isaacson implies in his bio.

Apple blogger John Gruber theorizes that Jobs cracked the idea that “apps are the new channels.” He postulates that Apple may be working on something similar to Newsstand for television channels — all on TV-sized displays. Only with the iOS system in place on the TV, content could be much, much richer.

“Imagine watching a baseball game on a TV where ESPN is a smart app, not a dumb channel. When you’re watching a game, you could tell the TV to show you the career statistics for the current batter. You could ask the HBO app which other movies this actress has been in.”

People are already starting to do this on their own, as The Washington Post reported in September. Families are consuming media on multiple devices at once, and, as Nielsen pointed out in an October study, about 40 percent of tablet and smartphone users are on their smaller devices while they watch TV. While most users in the study were looking at e-mail or “unrelated material” during shows, 28 percent of all users turned to the smaller screens for more information related to the program, and 19 percent looked up information related to an ad that they saw.

But to make a full Apple television set, Apple wouldn’t necessarily have to build the TVs itself. Sanford Bernstein’s Toni Sacconaghi, Fortune reported, says that a fully-integrated television set doesn’t make sense for Apple.

“Apple’s aspiration to revolutionize television might be better served by selling a consumer-electronics box – i.e. Apple TV 3.0 – instead of a full-fledged integrated television,” the report said. The analyst pointed out that televisions have historically “low probability” and suggests that Siri, iOS and everything else could be served to sets through another device.

Would you want an Apple-branded television, or would a revamped Apple TV set-top box work just as well for you?

Related stories:

As more tech titans provide TV, at-home gadgets multiply

Apple’s iTV, Steve Jobs’s last project, may transform home entertainment

As Apple TV rumors build, Google upgrades Google TV

Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.
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