Apple (AAPL) is reportedly ready to unveil a $99 version of Apple TV this fall as the pilot episode of Google TV is already in the works. If either company succeeds, get ready for a viewing revolution that will be more transformative than the advent of color TV and the birth of the cable industry.
Five hundred channels meet one million apps
As television sets incorporate the hundreds of thousands of apps already available for smartphones and tablet devices, never again should there be a moment when there isn’t something good to watch.
Skeptics may point to Apple’s earlier failures in bringing a television to market as evidence that the company should stay out of the living room. However, serious efforts for Apple TV (which may soon be dubbed iTV, according to Engadget) preceded the breakthrough successes of the iPhone, iPad and nearly quarter million applications that run on those devices.
Google (GOOG), which struck out on its first attempt to brand a smartphone with the HTC manufactured Nexus One, is collaborating with Sony to create an entirely new television experience aided by its Android operating software. Currently, Android and its nearly 75,000 applications can be accessed on dozens of devices, including the new Dell Streak mini tablet computer.
As Google is now working with DirecTV (DTV) to sell ads to the satellite company’s 18.7 million subscribers (deals with cable companies shouldn’t be far behind,) consumers should expect a more web-based, interactive experience all from the comforts of their couches.
New delivery and pricing models
Just as tablet and netbook computing never really took off before the release of the iPad earlier this year, interactive television sets never really had a chance of succeeding until now. Apps - which are really just miniature bits of software, games and entertainment that can be downloaded and purchased with the touch of a screen (or remote control) - have been an enormous hit with consumers since Apple launched its App Store two years ago.
In addition to exploring the web on a larger screen and accessing television programming from broadcast and cable networks, expect developers (and more traditional entertainment producers) to create applications specific to the TV viewing experience. This includes anything from video games that take advantage of the larger screen size, to apps that ping you when the beer in the fridge is cold enough to drink, to specialized versions of services like Hulu and Netflix that offer your favorite shows a la carte (or at least via subscriptions traditionally cheaper than the cable companies).
The future is now
Apple traditionally releases new products and services late in the summer, and the company’s rumored mid-September event would be the perfect coming out party for iTV. The Google/Sony set-top boxes and television sets are scheduled to arrive this fall.
By next year, potentially millions of app-powered television sets could find their place in living rooms throughout the globe. In this hyper-kinetic information age, don’t be surprised to see executives from Apple and Google pitch advertisers alongside their counterparts at the major networks when announcing their fall lineups.