Apple is working on a new way to deliver video to home television sets. A report in the “Wall Street Journal” said that while few details were available, the technology is seen as a potential threat to bundled cable programming.
It suggested that new markets, such as digital video and control of the living room, would pose the first “real test” for new Apple CEO Tim Cook, who officially took over for Steve Jobs only a week ago.
Some sources connected the Journal’s report to Apple’s upcoming AirPlay Mirroring functionality, which is said to be iOS 5’s “most exciting feature.” AirPlay Mirroring could bring about significant disruption in the console gaming market by allowing iOS game developers to offer console-style gaming with the iPhone or iPad serving as both the hardware and a wireless controller.
Apple, it was also speculated, may release an Internet-connected TV in the near future, as early as this fall. And the company was also said to be considering a new television subscription product that would unbundle television programming.
Apple has made no secret of not liking the current state of television. Apple’s now chairman Steve Jobs has often criticized — in public and private — the experience of watching TV as clumsy and bad for consumers. But he has also admitted that the existing system, where consumers get content from different cable and satellite providers that use different technologies, makes it difficult to innovate.
UBS Investment Research analyst Maynard Um has said that Apple is in the best position to win the battle for the “digital living room.” He rated all areas in Apple’s ecosystem as strong, with the exception of TV, the cloud, social networking and office suite, which were listed as “needs improvement.” The company is expected to drastically improve its presence in the cloud with the introduction of iCloud this fall.
Eric Bleeker, senior technology analyst for Motley Fool, also views Apple’s opportunity to leverage iOS in the home entertainment arena as a next step for Cook. According to Bleeker, Jobs had already seen the vision of iOS extending into the living room, and it’s up to his successor to execute it.
“The main visionary aspect was accomplished, which was creating the mobile platform that now powers Apple and bringing the developers on,” Bleeker said. “Once you had iTunes and iOS, less innovation was always needed, in a way, because of the momentum once you start moving forward.”
As for a subscription video service, Apple reportedly attempted to negotiate licenses for a service in 2009 but gave up after talks stalled. Envisioneering Group analyst Richard Doherty compared Apple’s efforts to “pushing this giant marshmallow uphill,” noting that convincing rights holders, cable and satellite companies to change their business models is “light years” tougher than with the music industry.