One of the memes from Walter Isaccson’s authorized biography “Steve Jobs” is that the late Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) co-founder claimed to have “finally cracked” the Internet television challenge.
This is no small feat, as the high-tech heavyweights before it have learned. Intel (NASDAQ:INTC), Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) and others failed to give it wings, Apple has treated it like a hobby and Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) has grappled to make Google TV mainstream.
So what will an integrated Apple Television experience look like? No one knows for sure, but the prospect has normally conservative financial analysts playing a fantastic guessing game covering all possibilities.
Jefferies & Co. analyst Peter Misek, who admitted implementation details are still vague, is going off of channel checks and evidence culled from Apple’s patent portfolio, noting:
“We assume the iTV will be integrated, interoperable with mobile devices, interactive, contain an SSD or HDD, leverage carrier/MSO relationships with content providers, have a voice/Siri/gesture/device user interface, and be a gaming platform.”
Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster, who has been calling for a complete Apple TV for the last five years, said the service will work with iCloud, combining live television with TV recorded in the cloud.
Global Equities analyst Trip Chowdry went so far as to say the full Apple TV will resemble Bose VideoWave TV. While that system has reduced the number of cables to three, Apple HDTV will probably have only one. Chowdry went so far to so predict Apple HDTV will be launched in March 2012.
The meme received a big boost this past week when Bloomberg reported that Apple has tabbed iTunes and iPod engineer Jeff Robbin is leading development of the Apple television set. It’s the first time an engineer has been associated with the product, a sign that there may be more to the rumor than vapor trails.
Perhaps the most interesting new twist to the Apple TV Rumor Carousel is the addition of Siri, the virtual personal assistant the company acquired last year and fashioned into a key application on the iPhone 4S.
It’s essentially voice-recognition software with context. As Apple’s latest iPhone 4S commercials will tell anyone who watches and listens, Siri will tell users about the weather, play music and do several other tasks, all via spoken signals.
Apple TV Is Coming, Likely With Siri
At a time when Web TV users are fumbling with large, clunky remotes (looking at you, Logitech Revue) or poor facsimiles of same said keyboards on smartphones and tablets, Siri could be the saving grace for improving poor Web TV input experiences worldwide.
“We also believe Apple could use Siri, its voice recognition, personal assistant technology to bolster its TV offering and simplify the chore of inputting information like show titles, or actor names, into a TV (typically with a remote),” noted Piper Jaffray’s Munster.
Ironically, while the financial analysts are all calling for Siri on Apple TV, Gartner analyst Van Baker told eWEEK about the use of Siri for Apple TV:
“Television viewing is a pretty ingrained behavior and it is by nature a lean back or passive experience. Changing that would be very difficult. Yes, the grid system that television uses today is very cumbersome but while it is cumbersome it is also familiar to consumers. As television is also social it is hard to imagine voice as a controller for television. What about competing commands, noisy environments? This is a significant challenge for all of these reasons.“
Instapaper creator Marco Arment noted: “The way to revolutionize the TV market is to cut out all of the legacy. No cable companies. No broadcast tuners. No channels. No DVRs. All Internet delivery. All on-demand. No commercials. But that’s an incredibly tall order. Apple can do a lot, but I’m not sure that they can do that, given how much of it is out of their control.”
Sounds like an Apple Television would shore up Jobs’ legacy of illustrious “one-more-thing launches.”
Indeed, Envisioneering Group analyst Richard Doherty, who has been closely following the floundering Web TV market for years, said Steve Jobs went to CableLabs in Colorado a decade ago to learn what not to do in the Web television market.
As such, he believes Apple will launch a fantastic TV set with a service that will make TV more laid back and easier to access than before.
“I think it’s a very safe bet that within a year we’re going to see the easiest to brag about owning TV set come out with an Apple logo on it,” Doherty said. “It will anticipate what users want from the connections they have.”
Anticipation of what consumers want and need was always one of Jobs’ strengths. We could have quite the encore to look forward to.