OK, I’ll bite. Web editor Grant Clauser made a strong case as to why a long-rumored HDTV entrance from Apple excites him about as much as an HD-DVD comeback. I’m no Apple fanboy, but it seems like almost anything that comes out of Cupertino is gold, although it’s still too early to tell if Tim Cook has the same Midas touch of Steve Jobs.
For the sake of argument—and perhaps an impending mega-cool television option to create more buzz for a category that’s kind of returning to glory with smart TVs and Ultra HD (I would add 3D to that list, but the buzz on that turned out to be a mixed bag at best, largely thanks to Hollywood’s role, but that’s another story).
So following in the footsteps of Electronic House commenter Steve Crabb’s well-pointed counters to Grant’s blog, here goes with five-plus reasons why I care about—or at least am highly intrigued by—the possibilities of Apple HDTV.
1. (Apple is all about software.) Yes, Apple may be much about software, but there is definitely some hardware substance … and style. The hardware design flair goes all the way back to the original Macintosh computer to the colorful iMacs to the splash that iPod made on its arrival and so on. The products’ designs are just different, plain and simple, and they’ve always screamed sleek. I haven’t done analytic measurements of the brightness, contrast or colors on the iMac monitors but the ones here in our office are stunning and they are mainly used by the graphic designers, so there must be some quality image rendering capabilities. The MacBook Air is about as astonishing a computer product as I’ve seen, and again, I say that not as an Apple fanboy but merely a tech enthusiast who can appreciate why others might like the product.
2. (It would be expensive.) Expensive works for Apple, and people overlook the pricing to pay for what they perceive to be that premium-performance experience. Others pay for the pricier MacBooks over laptop PCs, whose prices have shrunk similarly to that of televisions, because they do not have to worry about the old “blue screen of death” and other performance issues they feel Apple delivers. I have a brand new Lenovo ThinkPad with what seems like good processing power, and yet I frequently deal with my web browser “Not responding.” Before this I had a MacBook hand-me-down from 2005 that rarely stalled even though its best days were clearly behind it toward the end. And my BlackBerry? Ugh. I never hear iPhone users saying they have to pull out the battery to reboot like I have to do once every couple of weeks when my phone goes haywire (yes, my contract ends next month and I can’t wait). Apple should insist on premium performance from any TV product it puts forth. The company has raised the bar so high that anything less would be failure—look at the Apple maps fiasco.
3. (TVs are marketed, sold and installed differently than portable or computing devices.) No, fanboys probably won’t be camping out for a TV, and especially they won’t be purchasing a new one every year or two years. But people make purchases as much out of emotion and devotion as they do for other reasons, and perhaps no other company has benefited from that as much as Apple. They also buy brands as status badges (whether that status says “I’m cool,” “I’m current” or “I’m wealthy”), and again Apple has reaped rewards here. What other electronics manufacturer’s logo can you find on car windows like a Grateful Dead sticker? I’ll be very interested in how they market a TV product, because it is a very different purchase than a mobile product. Apple also has the ability to leverage its stores and their personnel, who may not be savvy yet to sell TVs, but they’d be able to talk the talk in terms of its integration (or built-in capabilities) with other Apple products (we’ll get to that in No. 5). There’s also a large network of custom electronics pros who sell Savant—automation and A/V systems based on Apple platform—that probably would embrace adding a premium HDTV into the mix.
4. (It won’t be plasma.) I love plasma, too, but even I will concede that unfortunately it’s a technology that has started going the way of the RPTV in recent years. If you look at Apple’s computer monitors and all their pizzazz, if the company can find a way to replicate that in a larger form factor the TV will be stunning. Heck, a couple of years ago Sharp was churning out HDTVs that almost looked a little too much like a huge iPhone … and if Apple went with something that looked like it was part of the iThings family that probably wouldn’t be a bad thing. Going edge-lit or back-lit LED would fall in line with today’s TV trend of ultra-thinness, which we know Apple already covets with its MacBook Air and iPads.
5. (What will it do differently?) Hey, I don’t really need Siri on my TV either. And I’m not so certain a touch-capacitive TV is the way to go, because Apple would have to find a way to include a nice protective film over the glass so things don’t get smudgy. And I agree that AirPlay baked in would be one big differentiator. But why stop there? Why not simply incorporate Apple’s entire media ecosystem into such a presumably expensive product. Just put Apple TV technology into the HDTV and give everyone streaming, iTunes, rentals and purchases right from their big screen. Let ‘em use all the Apps they want and give ‘em an included iPad mini or iPod touch to use as a dedicated control device.
6. (Bonus reason: It won’t be a projector.) Well, I can’t argue with that. But if Roku can get involved in a streaming projector, I’ll look forward to the competitor “powered by Apple TV” streaming someday.
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Arlen writes about home technology installations and product news and reviews for electronichouse.com
and Electronic House magazine.