Steve Jobs’ own voice has been just one current in the maelstrom of rumours eddying around the Apple TV set.
“I’d like to create an integrated television set that is completely easy to use… It would be seamlessly synced with all of your devices and with iCloud.”
Just like the original iPhone, the success of the future Apple TV set is predicated on two things: smooth user interaction and minimalism.
Jobs’ emphasis on the multitouch technology, in the keynote for the introduction of the iPhone, foreshadows the importance Apple will place on input for the TV. Just like the iPod click wheel, Apple’s strengths are in input techniques; I can’t imagine what they’ve crafted, but it will be revolutionary.
Apple has a long and bloody history of dismembering devices’ ageing connectors, especially when these inputs are approaching supersession. Components like floppy disks, CDs, spinning hard drives, PS/2 ports, VGA and DVI connectors are becoming a rarity in the Mac lineup, available only in the high-end or vintage market. Apple has led the industry towards the razor of minimalism, cutting out cruft and obsolescence.
With Apple’s history, a reduced amount of inputs available to an Apple TV set becomes obvious. This transforms a TV from a cabled mess to something more similar to an iOS device’s cordless magic, satisfying the requirement for minimalism.
To predict the future with the past, we can look at the iPad’s rejection of a standard USB port—a move denigrated by many in the tech press—as a huge marker of the iPad’s overall simplicity. I envisage very few inputs on the Apple TV set, only the standard Power connector (with power brick built inside the device) and maybe HDMI. This will be essential to the TV’s simplicity and popularity, but, like the iPad, will be met with disfavour.
And most people won’t even need the HDMI connector: the Apple TV set will consist of just a screen and a power cord. Wifi, Apple TV OS, IR receiver and storage will be perfectly integrated, providing access to all of the current services and more. That leaves the Apple TV set with a stunningly minimalistic one cord hanging out of the TV.
Apple will have to cut the following ports that currently feature on TVs:
- Myriad audio connectors
- Component input
- Standard TV coaxial input
Most of these can be handled over a wireless network or Bluetooth, and Apple will favour minimalism over home theatre users.
At the moment, it would be suicidal to launch a TV without the last item, but that will change as more people drop cable and switch to an on-demand TV schedule. The standard coaxial cable input won’t appear on the Apple TV set; the connector will be eliminated, just as Apple has done so many times before.
This creates an incredibly simple device, one with practically no set up to start using. Just as the iPhone has one button on the front, the TV will have one type of input at the back. Apple’s Thunderbolt connector might even be the only port, but that’s getting a little crazy. ‘Setting up’ a TV will be a thing of the past.
I think that Apple is waiting, polishing a great TV set. Just waiting for the industry to move close enough to the precipice. Waiting for on-demand content to shadow broadcast TV. The archaic cable-in-the-wall model of TV looks like dial-up, when compared to the wireless wonder of your iOS device.
The industry is being pulled back from this advancement by live sports, low bandwidth connections and monolithic cable companies, but the push of the consumer outweighs all these factors. Apple’s ready to give the final nudge.
The Apple TV set won’t be a catcher, it will be a pitcher.