Even the new Apple TV is still a hobby, but not for long

The sooner Apple can make the new Apple TV an international product, the sooner it becomes a serious business.


Apple CEO Tim Cook teased us with tantalizing remarks about cars and offered some insights into Apple Music, but also let us know the new edition Apple TV ships next week. But don’t expect too much from the future of television just yet.

This is going to take a little more time.

One of the biggest features of tvOS-powered Apple TV is the support for Siri-based navigation. The Siri Remote lets you ask for the shows you want using your voice – the only snag being that this is only available in eight countries from day one:

“Users in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Japan, Spain, the UK and the US will all get to control the new home entertainment hub with their voice, pressing the microphone button to enable Siri control,” explains TechRadar.

This isn’t a deal-breaker, of course, as the Apple set-top box will be equipped with all kinds of additional features, apps support, iTunes compatibility and (the big focus of this release) the ability to play games.It does however illustrate that the TV addict’s companion will be (like so many things) a work in progress on day one.

Beyond US

That’s because while it will still have plenty to offer, some of its most discussed talents will only be available in the US, at least at first.

This is Apple’s typical pattern when introducing new products such as this one; it needs to work with partners to bring the content into the equation, and content deals take time to arrange.

That’s why the product remains a hobby.

I imagine Apple TV will be an extremely popular gift in the US this season, (anything that improves the US TV viewing experience is going to be popular). But its true effect isn’t going to be felt until it is available everywhere.

Achieving this will be difficult.

That’s because the only way everywhere makes any sense is to ensure that content from anywhere is available elsewhere. What this means is that Apple will need to reach arrangements with a huge number of broadcast content creators to make their shows available to audiences wherever they happen to be.

The idea has to be one in which you’ll be watching your TV your way: US premieres in Iceland; Canadian news in Portugal; and Brazilian soaps in Kazakhstan. This ultimate subscription model should enable any of us to put together the perfect package of shows for our needs. That’s the idea.

Road maps

To achieve it, I think Apple will offer three key routes:

  • One route is to enable broadcasters to offer their content as apps for the device
  • Another is to allow content creators to provide shows for sale through iTunes.
  • It also seems inevitable Apple will one day offer shows and films on a subscription basis, as it now provides music through Apple Music.

Of course there are rather more interesting creative possibilities opened up by Apple’s TV platform. Think about the opportunities to create truly immersive reference books, with video assets called up on the TV while you read the books themselves on your iPad or iPhone? Think about how moviemakers can embrace these truly mixed media opportunities.

Apple has always called Apple TV a hobby. The company has clearly intensified interest in this hobby. But until it is able to deliver a universal user experience – and universal content management, discovery and control – the device will still be a hobby.

Apple does deals all the time, of course, and already has the relationships it needs to get toward that target. Which is why I believe Apple TV will remain a hobby for a while longer yet, but is also why I don’t believe we will be waiting too long.

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