I think I’ve just seen the future.
As I’ve watched the launch of Google TV and (the revised) Apple TV, neither service has really appealed to me……Google TV is just too complicated to become mainstream, with it’s QWERTY remote and multitude of feeds. The basic principle is like controlling a PC from the other side of the room, and it’s crazy to think that will ever work. I don’t want to have to learn how to use a new piece of technology, even less do I want to have to work out how it interfaces to my TV, satellite, cable etc etc. I just want to watch TV… …Apple TV seemed too limited, especially outside the US where iTunes content is limited, and anyway, I don’t want to have to buy the majority of my content through iTunes with it’s DRM (and cost). At least Apple TV is cheap. Watching TV is a passive experience, very different to using a PC. That’s why it’s such a popular hobby. What I want is to be able to search for, or choose, content on a large-ish screen right in front of me using touch, then watch that content on my TV, with no messing-around. That content might be purchased from the web, or from YouTube or some other online source, or my home movies stored on my own laptop or hard disk. I want the user-experience to be familiar, and I want it to be easy to setup. With the imminent launch of iOS 4.2, I think Apple might just be giving me what I want, and what I think most people will want (I say ‘think’ because details on AirPlay are still sketchy, and it will depend how AirPlay is adopted by 3rd-party developers). Specifically, AirPlay will allow me to stream content from my iPad to my TV. So I can search for video using any website or service I can access (avoiding Flash video of course), or any shared drive I can access (my laptop or hard disk storage), press the AirPlay button right next next to Play, and stream it to my TV. No new user-experience to learn (I understand iOS already, and the learning-curve is impressively shallow for anyone else – even my 3 year old son can navigate my iPad and iPhone), the iPad display is big and right in front of me rather than across the room, and Apple TV is simple to setup – one cable to the TV). If AirPlay is flexible enough to be adopted by lots of 3rd-party apps, then I think Apple have got this right. Apple could be creating a virtuous circle with their iOS devices – the sale of one device drives adoption of the other devices. Apple have priced Apple TV very aggressively – its almost at the level of accessory pricing to the iPad – so there is a low barrier to adopting this. I think 2011 could be a very interesting year for connected TV’s, and Apple TV in particular.