In his latest piece, Apps Are the New Channels Gruber ponders the idea of standalone apps replacing television channels as a distribution model. Referring to apps like the HBO Go iPad app (which I love, by the way) he writes:
Why not the same thing for TV sized displays? 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. Point is: it’d be better for both viewers and the networks if a TV “channel” were an interactive app rather than a mere single stream of video.
Ok take that as a given, but it still doesn’t answer my question about the supposed Apple HDTV: How does Apple producing and marketing a HDTV meet that goal, as well as the needs of the majority of Apple’s customers, in any way that is demonstrably better than the existing AppleTV product? Keep in mind that I will only accept answers to that question that take into account the issues regarding additional content types I enumerated previously.
This is my whole problem with the growing chorus of people claiming that Apple will, nay must produce an HDTV. Every time I ask what the rationale behind such a device I get nothing back but wild-eyed speculation of all the cool shit Apple could do with a television; backed by people constantly chanting “DISRUPTION” like some sort of TechCrunch obsessed Dalek.
I get it, “television” sucks. The problem is that “television” isn’t some neatly packaged product like “personal digital media player” or “smartphone” or “tablet shaped personal computing device whose market we’re essentially inventing from whole cloth.”
“Television” is a vast, amorphous entity consisting of channel based programing streams, pre-packaged standalone media entities, gaming and personal content display to name just a few things. “Television” is also a market that has, in one form or another, existed for half a century.
Compounding this, the television itself is merely the endpoint of all this content, and arguably the component least responsible for the current state of affairs. Arguing that replacing the television addresses the problems with “television” makes as much sense as saying that the answer to my congested morning commute is to replace my truck.
All that said, there is one thing I want to make clear. Now that we’re getting to the point where the claim chowder will be served I want to explain that I am not arguing that Apple won’t attempt to produce this thing. It is not the place of mortal drunkard to know the mind of Tim Cook. For the record, my claim is this: If Apple does produce an Apple HDTV that is anything like what the current spate of rumors has suggested, it will not succeed in the market in the long run.
There, put that in your chowder pots and simmer it.