Apple TV: Coming Soon To Your Living Room?

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Last week Apple launched its next foray into the world of television, announcing a complete overhaul of their Apple TV platform. Apple’s new vision, according to CEO Tim Cook: “We believe the future of television is apps."


Rather than sit back to passively watch a program, viewers watching app-based TV shows are invited to interact with the program in order to create a highly individualized experience. App support will also open the door to casual gaming for the TV. To enhance search, Apple TV will support Siri voice-activated search.

Apple TV will no doubt be popular with Apple’s devoted fans, because of Apple’s strengths: outstanding design, intuitive user experience, seamless interface to other Apple devices. But, will this product be a game-changer that redefines the TV paradigm? I think not.

Firstly, let’s remember that Apple has made a number of attempts to crack the TV market, so far with no success. So, it is only fair to approach any "game changer" hype with a degree of skepticism.

More fundamentally, I do not think Apple gets TV. Every tech mega-company has an Achilles Heel. For example, Google does not get social, and probably never will, no matter how hard they push Google+. Apple’s Achilles Heel seems to be TV. Watching television is a collective experience (the tribal bonfire) more than it is an individual experience. When I want to watch something alone, I watch it on my phone or my tablet. When I want to watch with other people, I sit with them in front of the TV, and we talk about what we watched at the water cooler the next day.

Many of Apple TV’s announced new features, like voice-activated Siri search, apps and games, are geared to individual viewers rather than groups. For example: Can Siri understand four people arguing over what to watch? 

TV viewing has traditionally been perceived as more a passive, sit-back experience than an active one. This was never entirely true, and today’s TV is more active, but the activity is social, not individual – arguing with friends about what happens next, sharing opinions about what to watch. So, the killer app for TV is probably social – being able to talk with friends about what you are all collectively watching. There are no social features in the Apple TV announcement.

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For those reasons, I think Apple TV will not have much of an impact on the future of TV, and will not be coming soon to my living room. But, it should be a huge success as the TV interface for iPads and iPhones, where the stand-alone experience of app-based TV could be very compelling for individual viewers. This could create a whole new market for personalized in-app advertising, e.g., buy the dress Tina Fey is wearing on-screen now.

In the Internet of Things, Apple TV has created a very shiny new thing that opens up a world of opportunities to learn about viewers’ preferences and personalize their experience.

Like it or not, retailers and advertisers will have to up their game to manage campaigns on this new platform. A winning proposition will require deep expertise in user experience design, Big Data analytics and the ability to adapt rapidly to changing user requirements. If you don’t have those skills in-house – get help from a development partner who does.

Moshe serves as CTO for Ness Software Engineering Services, leading Ness’s strategy for Digital Transformation technologies and helping customers build solutions that capitalize on the Digital Economy. Moshe previously headed the Big Data Centre of Excellence at Barclays Bank, and has led R&D teams at companies such as Zoomix (purchased by Microsoft) and NDS (purchased by Cisco). He was part of the Emmy award winning team that designed the scrambling system for DIRECTV and holds 6 patents.


Edited by Stefania Viscusi

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