The Samsung Series 8 TV
Whilst Apple continues its reign as the dominant force in the home computing, smartphone, tablet and mp3 player markets – as well as having jurisdiction over the content associated with these platforms – you might think that the only the pertinent question is not if they are going to conquer the Smart TV market, but how they are going to do it.
However, the reality is not so cut and dry. As it stands, Apple won’t be releasing a Smart TV product in 2012. We can assume that the reason for this is not due to a lack of technology– they’ve had engineers working on this idea since 2005 and are chomping at the bit to grow another revenue stream – but more down to the resistance they are facing from Cable and TV companies over Apple’s desire to license and control content.
Cable and terrestrial broadcasters, who are reluctant to relinquish control of their user experience to Apple, currently control most of the content we see on our TV’s. And it is hard to see under what circumstances they would relinquish this to Apple.
The TV industry is in a much stronger position than the music industry was when Steve Jobs convinced artists and labels to get on board with the iTunes concept, so where does that leave Apple in all of this? They have 3 choices – and they are all longer-term strategies for them.
Firstly, Apple somehow reaches a deal to license content, which looks unlikely to happen any time soon.
Secondly, they collaborate with an existing manufacturer and cable company to develop a next generation set top box, which uses Apple’s iOS operating system to access existing content and services, as well as the content of the company they team up with. The device would also link up seamlessly with other devices in the Apple family.
This option is plausible but it would require one of the major players in TV or cable to break from the crowd and get into bed with Apple. Any prospective partner would have to have a big enough market share for Apple to want to partner up with them. Therefore potential partners may not want to partner with Apple as it could mean their actual market share would be diluted.
There also seems to be an underlying sentiment that once Apple are in the race, they will develop their technology to a point where their competitors’ models become obsolete and then go about mopping up everybody else’s market share. So as it stands, keeping Apple out of the race prevents everybody else from losing out to them.
Thirdly, Apple could do the hitherto unthinkable and license their iOS operating system to existing cable and set top box suppliers. Whilst this does not provide them with revenue from selling hardware, this could be the most effective route to market.
The iOS will more than likely be the best available software on the Smart TV market, therefore if one supplier licenses it, others will have to follow for fear of having an inferior product. Once customers have bought into the brand, then Apple are in a much stronger position to negotiate a deal more in line with their vision: where they sell their product direct to customers and license the content from suppliers.
As this kind of breakthrough doesn’t seem to be happening any time soon, for now at least, Smart TV looks to be firmly in the hands of Apple’s competitors. And there are some excellent Smart TV options already on the market, available to buy from electrical stockists such as Currys.
The pick of the bunch is the Samsung Series 8. It boasts a 55” LED 3-D display, built in Ethernet and dual core processor, which allow users to make the most of web-sourced content – such as catch up and apps – as well as traditional TV channels. It also has a built-in webcam and voice and gesture control, with which users can intuitively control their sets. These features, whilst useful now, also seem geared towards future developments in content services and so for now, this model looks excitingly like the future for Smart TV.