So it’s official: Apple owns Beats. Apple also acknowledges that the TV experience sucks. What’s more, Apple have had a set-top box product known as the Apple TV on the market for YEARS now….yet seem to be doing nothing significant with it.
But I believe this is all going to change…and soon! Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t just another article speculating what Apple will do with Beats, or even more dull, when they will release their elusive TV display.
No no, this is all about something bigger, something better….this is about the home media hub of the future, and how Apple are already working in the background to become the most important innovators in the home media experience.
Stick with me here…this is going to sound far fetched and perhaps a little crazy…but I will explain my reasoning before I get into the details.
My mind started racing after I read an interesting review on a new set of wireless Beats headphones over at 9to5Mac. It was a simple enough article, reviewing the overall feel, sound, and experience of using the Bluetooth enabled wireless headphones. Whether you connect to your iPhone, MacBook Air or iPad…you have complete wireless freedom to roam your house while listening to your favourite music.
Then it hit me!
Look at these devices we connect to for our media. Laptops, mobile phones, tablets…it’s all the same idea. Turn the device on, connect via bluetooth, and get your media on. But here’s where I get stuck:
Apple clearly stated at the announcement of iCloud that for years, the Mac was the central hub of our media. With iCloud, this switched and now we are all throwing our content into the a new central hub called “The Cloud”. But we still require devices to either stream or directly download this media content onto. These devices are referred to a “Thin Clients”.
Whatever word you place to these media streaming devices, for the most part there are issues:
- These devices need to be turned on to stream or download your media
- You need to connect via Bluetooth or Wifi every time you use them, especially with wireless headphones
- Battery power is often required and then depleted QUICKLY when streaming over Bluetooth/Wifi/3G
- Apple devices are expensive, so why should we HAVE TO fork out many 100’s or even 1000’s to get the pleasure of experiencing our own media?
So with all the potential problems listed above, what could possibly be an answer to it all? Well it’s quite simple really: What CHEAP, always-on, Bluetooth/AirPlay enabled and internet/iCloud connected device do we currently have available to us?
Not only is this tiny device able to stream our iCloud content, but it is easily setup on your network via wifi or cable, it is powered via the mains, and extremely energy efficient. You could easily consider this tiny box to be your own little media server at home. Except it’s not technically a server…it’s an always on media THIN CLIENT.
So what has this got to do with Beats?
Well when Apple 1st announced the iPod, they did so by explaining the varied media types that Apple were famous for being great at including photography, video and music.
With the iPod, they decided to focus initially on music. Why? They told us it was the most commercially appreciated i.e. more people are music fans than they are movie fans…but also, because it is the SIMPLEST to deploy!
With Beats now part of Apple, it goes without saying that the music options and streaming technologies will likely be the most innovative on the market…but this is old news (if you read all the blogs out there). The real exciting side is the hardware…and this is where the wireless headphone review sparked my imagination.
Imagine this: my laptop is neatly tucked away in my desk drawer, and my iPhone is charging, or the kids are playing Angry Birds on it….or whatever. But I want to listen to my music, and I want to do so in any room, and in my own privacy, without disturbing the wife and kids.
So I pop on my Beats headphones, tap the home button on the headset, and I am instantly connected to my central media hub: my Apple TV.
Hold down the home button and I get the all too familiar bleep of Siri waking up. “Siri, create a playlist of my favourite Pearl Jam songs!” BAM! Instantly I am listening to the haunting voice of Eddie Vedder while I chop the veggies for dinner. I haven’t had to take my laptop out and my kids are all happily catapulting birds into bricks and pigs.
So that’s it? Wireless music streaming???
Upon announcing the Beats acquisition, Tim Cook stated: “It’s all about the music.” And it is…for now.
The reality is, this is just the beginning. With the same headset, I could command the Apple TV to turn on and play the latest episode of House of Cards from the Netflix app on the Apple TV…again, with the audio all streaming to my headphones.
But remember…Beats don’t JUST make headphones. They also make wireless speakers. Imagine having the ability for your Apple TV to stream to any or all Beats speakers you have within your home. This time, we don’t need a headset to control it, but it could be your iPhone…or even a watch??? Heck….why not a wireless Beats surround sound system (not too dis-similar to Sonos).
The point here is not just how the Beats headphones and music streaming service can be used in your home, but the very fact that we could be seeing the Apple TV becoming something more than what it currently is.
Your iPhone or your Mac have become so popular because they are considered very much your go to device for everything. Your Apple TV simply isn’t…it sits there as and when you need it. But with just a few tweaks, this could become the most important device in your new Apple automated iHome.
But what about the iTV set?
Nope! I’m sorry guys and gals. If you are hoping for an Apple branded TV set with Apple TV built in, I think you are going to be disappointed. Here’s why:
Just look at TV sales and the refresh rate at which consumers upgrade their TV sets in general. I for one have owned the same LG 42″ display for over 8 years now, and I have no intent to upgrade any time soon.
Apple devices have become so unique and upgradeable that they release new devices every year…and the consumer wants them! People on average upgrade their iPhones and even iPads every 2-3 years. Even Macs tend to have refresh rates of less than 5 years for the average user. Compare that with a TV set…not likely!
It’s the same reason Apple never ended up making an iCar despite what Steve Jobs claimed he wanted to do. Why would they enter into a market that involves buying a new model once in a bluemoon? For some people…never!
So instead, in the case of the car, Apple created CarPlay, a central system that car manufacturers (and even after market vendors) can tap into using various API’s and create an Apple-centric experience for the car. Apple don’t have to build a car to offer the Apple experience!
Well this is EXACTLY what I expect to see from Apple with regards to the Apple TV. We have already heard rumours about the Apple TV finally having some API’s released to 3rd party developers and manufacturers, and so why not do exactly what they did with CarPlay?
Apple already have a MFi program that allows manufacturers to build Apple-centric 3rd party devices, and this is exactly what I imagine for the Apple TV. By doing this, they can leave the TV manufacturing to the 3rd parties like LG, Sony…even Samsung! Keep them happy, but just plug in your Apple TV puck, and create the full Apple experience!
There is no major hardware market for Apple to want to move into the TV set industry, but there certainly is for content and the overall experience. With all the technology being built into the puck, technically ANY TV could then be used to run Siri, TV on demand, and even motion tracking. Just look at what the XBOX ONE has done!
This is all speculation at the end of the day, but I think it makes sense. Just look at what’s happening: the cloud is king, Apple TV is always on and iCloud enabled, content is increasing on the device, and you can use it with any TV that has an HDMI port (what modern TV doesn’t?)
So this is my take on it all. No longer will users need to invests huge amounts of money to become invested in the Apple ecosystem. A £100 box could be all you need to get all the Apple experience you want. It’s the perfect way to entice new users to the world of Apple, the experience of Apple, and from there, create their own Apple iHome. It will become a gateway technology, and once you are in, you are hooked!
Apple no longer need to own the hardware experience in a world dominated by cheap smartphones and budget PC’s…they just need to control the experience, and from that, a huge revenue stream can still be tapped into.
I’m no Steve Jobs, but I think this is what he had in mind when he said he had “cracked” the TV experience. But only time will tell…