Apple iTV prepares for launch in 2012

One of the most hotly anticipated devices is not even out yet, with no real details and lots of speculation. But it could be a game changer in more than one area, from mobile TV to content delivery. It’s no secret that Apple is diving into the TV business, and rumors are swirling that the company may be launching several sizes of sets sometime in 2012 (rumors range from first quarter to last quarter).

Most of it started when Steve Jobs mentioned it in his biography; here is an excerpt:
“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. No longer would users have to fiddle with complex remotes for DVD players and cable channels. It will have the simplest user interface you could imagine. I finally cracked it.”

Simple is good. Apple revolutionized the mobile market by creating a smartphone that was actually easy to use. It spawned a vast market of imitators, with varying degrees of usability, but the key result is that phones are now easier to use. When Apple introduced the iPhone, it actually introduced the Apple TV on the very same day. The goal was to make TV easier to use and engage in — with a single remote and access to tons of content.

Apple TV has been refined and seems to be finally taking off. But it’s a small part of a much bigger picture. One of its defining features is AirPlay, which allows playing content on a device such an iPad or iPhone and streaming it live onto Apple TV with one click. One wonders if this will be part of Apple’s strategy as it develops its branded TVs.

iCloud is also a big part of all Apple products going forward, so the serendipity of the mobile TV and the living room TV should be a large tie-in. Apple could be lining up content providers and offer services in the form of channels, as opposed to the way television operators do it now, which is based on individual shows and movies. Channels could be structured on a subscription model, the way HBO and Showtime are now, in which customers subscribe to a live stream. This would bring things full circle to mobile TV and in line with how consumer adoption is shaping up worldwide. Not content to have their favorite channel just on their TV, today’s customers would like their channels to be on every device they own.

As rumors ebb and flow, it’s worth keeping an eye on. If Apple can reinvent the television the way it reinvented phones, computers, tablets and music players, we’ll be in for another technological revolution — one for which the TV industry is long overdue.