TV: Apples' Next Conquest - It's the Buttons Stupid
Steve Jobs has completed the third chapter of what I see as a 4-part story to take over entertainment.
In chapter 1, he built a little film company called Pixar that helped a bigger company Disney stay relevant during an otherwise tough time for the mouse. Since Pixar’s films represented the lion’s share of revenue during their relationship, and Disney never developed any of their own digital skills, they picked up Pixar - along the way making Steve Jobs the single largest shareholder of Disney stock.
In chapter 2, while music industry exec played ivory tower games and attempted to turn off the internet with attorneys and fruitless DRM efforts, Steve took the novel approach of vertically integrating music distribution with the personal computer and a line of devices that turned digital music into mobile assets that you could pack in your pocket. These efforts have put Apple on a path that today controls over 70% of digital music sales and could account for 28% of all music sales in 5 years.
In chapter 3, Steve decided that he could apply his smarts to the telecommunications industry, in one fell swoop, creating more innovation with the iPhone than the industry had seen since the creation of the mobile phone itself - fundamentally changing the way people interact with their phones.
Obviously much more can be written about each of these chapters, as well as the previous period which led to this series of breakthroughs, however the point of this post is a prediction about what I believe will be the next major chapter in the Apple Story:
CHAPTER 4: Re-inventing Television
Like music distribution and the mobile phone, the television industry finds itself in a transitional period. The industry has been devoid of significant innovation since the advent of color. HD, cable, satellite, DVRs, and now Internet TV are fairly obvious, incremental improvements, but even these improvements lfailt to deliver a fulfilling user experience. It’s the same vacuum that was felt by the music industry, and the mobile phone user before Apple delivered their solution. It’s a huge market to boot, and Apple now knows everything it needs know to enter in a meaningful way.
Here are some of the factors that frame this prediction:
- Apple has significant investments in flatscreen manufacturing with Samsung and LG
- the current Apple TV box is a test, to learn things about the market and user experience
- The experience of flattening hardware ala MacBook Air enables Apple to fit lots of gear in the back of an LCD case
- A line of high quality, flatscreen TVs with wifi + storage + an elegant remote + great media browsing UI would be a leap ahead for the TV marketplace (my Motorola DVR remote control has more buttons than my computer keyboard - count ‘em) - clearly an area where some iPhone like UI magic could assist
I’d suggest that Apple’s entry into the convention TV marketplace is inevitable - guessing when is a much harder task. Analyst Piper Jaffray suggests it will be in 2011, but I think we might hear something as soon as at the June 2009 Developer Conference.
There are many more reasons why this is a great next step for Apple - share your thoughts in the comments.