Apple is searching for partners to launch iTV, its Internet-connected streaming video and movie service, in a bold move that may change television viewing forever.
Canada’s Globe and Mail newspaper reported Apple is in talks with telecom giants Rogers Communications and BCE, and that both are already testing prototypes in their labs.
Reports of an integrated iTV set have circulated for years, and Apple is putting its plans into motion. The company is at the top of its game with soaring sales of the iPhone 4S and iPad 2 and a rapidly growing base of devoutly loyal fans, and is looking to television as the next frontier to conquer.
Late co-founder Steve Jobs told biographer Walter Isaacson he wanted to revolutionize the TV industry and create “an integrated television set that is completely easy to use.”
Jobs said his vision “seamlessly synced with all of your devices and… will have the simplest user interface you could imagine… I finally cracked it.”
Jobs didn’t say what “it” was, but speculation points to both cloud-based media storage and the Siri voice command system as solid bets. An integrated TV set with voice command capabilities would remove the need for multiple remote controls, and a set that also streamline music, video, television, and Internet services in one place may prove a big draw for consumers.
Both Apple and rival Google made attempts at breaking into television. Each launched set-top boxes that connect to streaming services like YouTube and Netflix, but neither device made much of an impact with consumers.
Google attempted to partner with Samsung to produce integrated television sets, but the venture never got off the ground, and Apple’s $1,000, 27-inch PC monitor lacks a TV tuner. Its foray with Sony led to lackluster sales and critical reviews of sluggish performance and spotty content.
The ability to reduce tech debris like wires and remote controls and combine multiple devices into one central hub appears the way of the future, fueled by the mobile industry. At the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, companies like LG debuted “smart home” technology that would allow users to control home appliances and electronics via one convenient system they may also access remotely.
The move likely means big trouble for traditional electronics companies, which probably lack the cloud and voice technologies Apple has in its arsenal, as well as content agreements with major record labels and movie studios already in place for its other services.
One major obstacle for Apple is content agreements. The company was able to bring record labels to the table for its iTunes and iCloud businesses, but movie and TV studios have been slow to come around to iTunes, showing a general wariness towards the “connected-TV” market in general. But Apple’s track record with music may help it allay fears, especially if it can show the potential for large profits.
Apple revolutionized the music and smartphone industries, and if Cupertino’s past performance is any indication, the traditional electronics and television industries should prepare for a big shakeup. Smart Home technology is on the rise, and a Jetsons-style home may be just around the corner.