I have been waiting for a time when Apple would draw all of it’s offerings together in one wholly integrated ecosystem. I think the final two products standing outside their walled garden are OS X and the Apple TV. Steve Jobs famously called the Apple TV a “Hobby” and the haphazard development of the product has shown Apple as a somewhat disinterested parent.
I think thats all about to change tomorrow. Keep reading to find out why.
The Apple TV is about to be reborn
I always felt that the Apple TV was half a product. I own a 1st generation Apple TV and while I adore it for watching movies and TV shows, I have found it has very little utility beyond Apple’s limited catalog of content. I also have felt that there is much more room for better discovery of content on Apple devices, this includes music in iTunes and Apps in the Apps Store.
They Say Content is King
Back in the 90′s I got my start cutting interactive training CD’s as a multimedia designer. Back then the mantra of “content is king” was just as strong then as it is today. It’s a theme that has continued to disrupt every content delivery paradigm since, when a whole industry suddenly wakes up and realises that extraordinary content is the key to driving sales.
A great example of this recently has been the SEO industry and Content Farming, they realised with a great deal of pain after the Google Panda update that one cannot simply game the “discovery system” i.e. Google, and expect people to flock to them, not bounce away from their site and return at another time for more. Delivering quality content is what drives views and sales. The old adage applies, you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.
Content is king but “discovery” is queen
The App Store is an example of a system that favours the few, there are 40 categories of apps by my cursory count in the App Store with 25 “Top” paid and free listings and latest releases. So basically the App Store has only 2000 apps in the top 25 of each category. I won’t go as far to say that the App Store only has 2000 apps, but it would help to explain how important the next “Discovery” shift will be. I think this is the single biggest user experience failure of Apple to date, there is no simple way of “seeing” interesting apps that you never thought you needed. A find field and is not enough anymore Apple, Google knows this with universal search, auto-suggest and Google+, there is no simple way of exposing great content without the help of my friends. A combination of curation and social signals are needed to fix this. Ping was a good attempt, but fell well short of it’s potential. I think their recent acquisition of discovery and app aggregator Chomp shows that they are making progress in this regard.
The point I’m making is, what is the point of great content if no one can find it?
The Apple TV will crack content discovery
It’s hard to guess how Apple will do it, but it may be a combination of algorithms and good old fashioned curated “channels” or Channel Apps that Apple will allow the major studios to curate themselves, similar to cable TV. Like I mentioned, social and curation signals may come into play that will expose great content. A system that effortlessly allows remarkable content to lift through the user experience. I think of a feather wafting up on a updraft.
The Apple TV needs a major UI update
Wafty metaphors aside, I think that Apple is about to do a major interface overhaul of the Apple TV. I would love to see Apple add a “Siri Remote” to the Apple TV as some have opined, imagine a microphone built into the remote control that allows you to control the TV. “Show me a list of new procedural police dramas that my friends like to watch”. Never mind shouting at the TV, I just don’t see this happening, I’m sure the best way to do it is to build the mic into the remote. Problem soved.
Games, games, games
What I would really love to see is apple add games to the Apple TV. There is no question in my mind that the A5X chip coming to the new iPad 3/HD would have the power to turn the apple TV into a fully fledged console. Will Apple do this? I’m not sure, it would need a hard drive, and the rumour mill isn’t grinding out articles about it, but it would sell a lot of Apple TV’s, and they have the developer base and ecosystem to pull it off.
Live video streaming
I think that Apple could pull off a major coup with live pay-per-view streaming of one off events, as well as subscriptions to live streaming of sports and other time sensitive events. The hard part is pulling off the deals with the studios.
The Apple TV was always the only child cousin, sullenly sitting in the corner getting little attention. But no longer! Tomorrow it will get the attention it deserves by becoming a fully fledged member of the Apple ecosystem. Will Siri make a showing? I don’t know, but I do know that Apple will change the way that we relate to content on the TV.