My Apple TV Prediction

I wrapped up my three-part series on TV yesterday, and in case it wasn’t clear, my conclusion was a pretty specific prediction about the Apple TV:

Imagine a $99 (or $129) “console” with an optional $49 controller and an App Store. That’s a lot of potential escapism, and a lot of user attention. It’s a lot of margin too (presuming the current Apple TV is profitable), especially at high volumes. I think it’s a space where a company that thinks different could have a “a significant contribution” and “crack” TV by not, in fact, being a TV at all.

To be more blunt:

  • I think at WWDC Apple will announce an SDK for the current Apple TV
  • The control method will be an iOS device
  • In the fall, Apple will launch an upgraded model that supports an optional wireless controller1

The entertainment options will be unchanged: no channel guide, no pass through, no DVR functionality. Apple will instead focus on stealing more and more attention away from pay-TV until the content owners are as desperate as the music companies were a decade ago.

Apple has sold 13 million Apple TVs without any advertising (except for this oblique reference) nor any easily articulated reason to buy. An App Store + marketing campaign + borderline impulse purchase price changes that in a very significant way.

The full three-part series.

  • Part 1: The Cord-Cutting Fantasy. Getting only the content you want without paying for everything is a fantasy. Pay TV is socialism that works.
  • Part 2: Why TV has resisted disruption. Great content is differentiated, has high barriers to entry, and depends on networks.
  • Part 3: The Jobs TV Does. The key question is attention, not set top boxes. What jobs do we hire TV to do?

Also see Steve Jobs on TV and my Additional Notes on TV

  1. There’s an outside chance the updated Apple TV + controller is also announced at WWDC. My initial thought was Apple would want apps before they actually launch everything, but announcing now could be a good fit for what seems to be a hardware hole in the WWDC lineup (and an overcrowded fall lineup). If they do, presumably it will be with a few name brand apps. Still, I think this is less likely, and probably would have leaked