Roku beats Apple to the TV market

If its Apple TV is ever to be more than a 'hobby,' Apple better get busy

1 2 3 Page 2
Page 2 of 3

Apple prides itself on delivering clear, easy to navigate, unified experiences that entertain and "delight" users. This is so deeply embedded in Apple's culture that user experience goes beyond just the user interface and often includes a product's packaging, the buying experience at an Apple store and the setup process of a new device. That experience is easily compromised when there are half a dozen or more inputs and devices and interfaces. This has been described as the reason an Apple HDTV makes sense for the company and its customers. It's also clear that Roku recognizes the challenge, based on the blog post by Roku CEO Anthony Wood announcing Roku TV.

That simplicity also enables easier setup and troubleshooting. Often it can be challenging to determine whether a problem is caused by the TV, a connected device, the cables connecting them, or a misconfiguration by the user. As devices become more complex and people add more devices to a single TV, the setup process -- and, if needed, the troubleshooting process -- can become unwieldy. Building a service directly into the TV means a much clearer process for users, help desk agents or service technicians.

A better remote

One of the points Roku touts about its new TV initiative is a simplified remote control. Apple has already done that with its remotes, which can also be used to control content on a Mac or TV. Apple's remote has been pared down to just seven button. Both Roku and Apple also allow users to control devices with their smartphones or tablets, which can streamline functionality even more. The advantage when a service is built directly into the TV is that you only need one remote.

Another advantage is integration with traditional content providers like cable and satellite companies. Roku's Channel Store already includes streaming access to content providers such as Time Warner Cable, HBO Go and WatchESPN. They let customers access live broadcasts as well as streaming content on demand. With the right set of partnerships, this environment could obviate the need for set-top cable or satellite boxes. The effect, if not the exact technology involved, would be similar to devices like Tivo that use the cable card standard.

This ubiquitous combined access to traditional and Interent content from a single interface on a single device is actually the ideal that Google was shooting for with Google TV. But it wasn't able to fully develop the system, in part because it couldn't establish the partnerships needed for success. The challenge for any company is to develop partnerships with content owners, networks and studios and content providers. The ideal service -- one that is effortless and delivers a full plate of free, subscription and purchase/rental contenton demand --- by nature includes some level of unbundling, something that content owners and providers see as undermining their business models.

Allowing ala carte access to a network or studio's entire library of content poses real risks to most media companies. It is also the approach that most people picture when they see Jobs' comment about cracking the TV industry. That could indeed be as disruptive as iTunes was to the recording industry a decade ago. It's commonly assumed that the reason Apple hasn't come out with its own HDTV is because it hasn't been able to secure the partnerships needed to meet Jobs' vision, though the gradual addition of content apps on Apple TV indicates that may be changing.

How would an Apple HDTV compare to a Roku TV?

It's hard to know how an Apple-made TV would stack up to the Hisense and TCL-made Roku TVs. The one definite difference is that Apple would almost certainly take on the entire design, production and sales processes. Roku, in contrast, is largely presenting existing TV makers with a platform that they can use rather than build their own. Roku is also reported to be open licensing its platform to other manufacturers, which could give it quick dominance in the market if it can line up a range of TVs from manufacturers across the price/feature spectrum.

Apple would most likely focus on the premium segment of the market. That might not drive the greatest marketshare, but it would likely deliver better returns than the typically razor-thin margins for consumer TVs, and better profits. It's essentially the same strategy Apple employs today in in the desktop/notebook, smartphone and tablet markets.

1 2 3 Page 2
Page 2 of 3
7 inconvenient truths about the hybrid work trend
Shop Tech Products at Amazon