On Apple’s Must-See TV

All of the reasons Marco Arment lists as to why Apple won’t build an actual television are good ones. But they’re also all good reasons why the market badly needs to be disrupted — and is ripe for it.

The argument that televisions are “an extremely competitive, commoditized market with very slim margins and most purchasing decisions going to whoever has the most features” sounds exactly like the PC market 15 years ago.

Remember, Apple was going to fail at computers because price is all that matters. A decade later, Apple was going to fail at phones because price is all that matters. 

But they were also doomed to failure in the phone market because the carriers had all the control — just as the cable monopolies do now in television. Apple changed one industry, there’s no reason to believe they can’t change another in similar fashion.

Look at your television right now. Chances are you’re getting service by way of a cable box. The experience is absolute shit. You really think people wouldn’t pay a premium to change that? Especially if Apple brought thousands of apps and their entertainment content along with it? 

As for the warehouse argument, Apple already makes a ton of 27” iMacs. These would be considered pretty big TVs just a decade ago. To compete now, they’d likely have to do 40” or 50” models. But they’re really not that far away from it.

And no one gets better component deals than Apple. They could likely figure out a way to build killer television for cheaper than current makers build shit ones.

As for home installation, I’m sure Apple would not get into this. But I’m not sure they’d have to. Just package it nicely (no one is better at this than Apple) and give a simple set of instructions along the lines of “take it out of the box and insert cables here and here”. 

I’m sure they’d give users a stand as the standard way to use it, those would wanted to mount one on the wall would have to do it themselves. But that’s the same situation with iMacs.

As for users not upgrading television sets often, that’s definitely true. But what if Apple started releasing new models on a one year or two year cycle with big new features? People aren’t buying new TVs all the time now because they’re largely the same year after year. Apple could change that.

Admittedly, that might be a buying habit that would be hard to break, but it wouldn’t be due to cost. Apple gets people to upgrade computers all the time, and the television sets would be around the same price of the high end computers — maybe cheaper.

The only real problem for Apple in getting into the game would be the cable companies’ monopolies on the local level. Unlike the carriers, which are nationwide, the cable companies dominate their regions and there’s often little competition (which is, of course, bullshit and the government are cowards for allowing this to continue). 

Let’s say Apple teamed up with one of the cable companies, like Comcast. They would likely have to do an exclusive deal with them to get them to bend to some of their demands (like getting rid of their shitty cable boxes in favor of a built-in Apple control guide). This is why Apple was exclusively with AT&T all that time. But not everyone can get Comcast. So the market would be limited. 

Also, the networks would throw a shitfit when the Apple television inevitably included a DVR. Apple has had to deal with them in the past for iTunes, and it has been rough going (the television rental selection still sucks, for example). This would also be a pain point.

But I’m still convinced that Apple could overcome all of this. There is just so much potential here and no one is doing anything with it. TiVo tried, but they just didn’t have the firepower. Apple does.

Google TV is way too much of a capitulation to the current cable status quo. (And the networks hate it anyway.) It won’t work. 

Apple TV is a nice start, but it too doesn’t go nearly far enough. And Steve Jobs knows that the real way to win the market won’t come by way of yet another set top box

There needs to be an all-in-one solution. And Apple needs to build it.

As Chris Dixon tweeted earlier, “it would be interesting to go back and read the arguments about why Apple won’t release a phone. eg carrier market power etc.”

It certainly would be. Conventional wisdom says that Apple cannot build a television. The same conventional wisdom also said that no one wants a tablet computer. Apple thrives by defying conventional wisdom.

[image: Fortune]

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