An Apple-Branded TV

Chris Dixon:

Perhaps Apple won’t enter the market due to its structure. But that didn’t stop them in mobile phones where the structure was similarly difficult. The mistake analysts made about the iPhone was to assume the current industry structure would be sustained after Apple’s entry. I’d be wary of making the same assumption about the TV industry.

I attended the 2011 LG Techno Conference yesterday at the Marriott in downtown San Jose, Calif. A handful of senior executives from LG Electronics presented information on the company, technology, and the markets the company competes in. In particular I was interested to see the company’s view on the TV market. As you may know LGE is fighting a fierce 3D war with Samsung. LGE is pushing Film Patterned Retarder (FPR) while Samsung is pushing Active Shutter. I won’t get into the nitty gritty of whether one is better than the other but it does seem 3D is a focus for these big TV brands. Personally, I think 3D will flop mainly due to customers not liking the experience. Second, Sony is not only coming out with 3D TV but the once dominant TV brand is pushing connected TVs or Smart TVs. Samsung, LGE, and Sony when combined is more than half of the TV market. These guys must know something. Or do they.

As in blogging, when it comes to TV, content is king. The amount of content. Good content. Easy access to content. Everything surrounding content. Right now where do we get content? Cable, satellite, and increasingly the Internet via some online service like Netflix, Hulu, or a box like Roku or Apple’s own Apple TV. 3D? That’s just a small part of the TV experience. Connected TVs? To what? If you’re connected only to the Internet then you’ll be bombarded with low-quality homemade videos. The TV needs to be connected, but to a quality content source.

Just yesterday I rented a movie from iTunes for the very first time. I’ve read through every Harry Potter book and did not yet have a chance to watch the latest movie, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1. The experience was eye-opening.

I watched the movie on a 17-inch LCD monitor and the overall experience was okay. The price was US$3.99. I was thinking it would have been cheaper to watch it via Netflix, but I didn’t want the hassle of a subscription, which indirectly forces you to watch movies to make the monthly fee worth while. The one-time payment and one-time viewing (within 24 hours of pressing play) was nice and simple with no strings attached. All I need is a computer, an Internet connection, and iTunes to watch movies. I could have done the same thing with my iPhone. If I had an iPad, with just an iPad. Apple has tightly integrated the experience of buying and viewing video on its gadgets using its iTunes Music Store. The process is simple and the experience pretty darn good. But what if I wanted to watch the movie on a big TV? Apple’s got that covered, too: Apple TV. So why would Apple want to build an Apple-branded TV?

To tightly integrate the experience of watching stuff on your TV, of course. What is the experience like now? Over-the-air stations broadcast 480i, 480p, 720p, 1080i and you need to figure out which station is which, what kind of TV you have (1366×768, 1280×720, 1920×1080, 1440×1080, etc.), the type of cable (HDMI, component, composite, etc.), and on it goes. Your experience with cable and satellite will be just as confusing. This sounds like where Android is right now. Depending the particular smartphone model, the Android OS version, and where you get your content, your experience will vary, often by quite a lot. In contrast, the experience on the iPhone is generally good and about the same. Like the iPhone, if Apple were to build a TV I think it would be just a single model. Of course, you’d get the choice of colors: black or white.

The main advantage of an Apple-branded TV is that you can expect a certain TV-watching experience. You wouldn’t be guessing what to expect from a TV show or a feature film. Unlike virtually all other TVs on the market today, an Apple-branded TV would set high expectations for TV viewing and be able to deliver that very experience, simply and with a touch of class.