Categories: TVs & Home Cinema News   Tags: , ,

Apple’s flatscreen TV has become the biggest rumour churning around the Cupertino-focused blogs. It all follows Steve Jobs’s assertion, published in Walter Isaacson’s new biography, that he’d “finally cracked” how to get make a proper Apple TV work. What makes this especially interesting is today’s New York Times report that Jobs was actually referring to using Siri to control an Apple TV.

There’s no denying this could make a revolutionary and futuristic device, that could lead the way in the same way the iPhone did for smartphones and the iPad is currently doing for tablets. But there’s a huge elephant in the room: content providers. Because without the backing of studios and networks, the Siri Apple TV could be a disaster.

You only need to look at the struggles of the original Apple TV to see why there could be huge issues getting a Siri-backed version off of the ground. That device was never more than a “hobby product” and even its dinky replacement doesn’t quite cut it in terms of serving up stacks of easy on-demand content. It’s a device that’s very much for Apple fans, even if its price point is enticing to the wider public.

The idea of being able to ask your TV to cue up an episode of Mad Men or a classic Hitchcock flick is brilliant. It dispenses with the worries of having to find and use a remote, a peripheral that it’s very hard to love, no matter how well it’s designed or how many gadgets it controls.

But if you thought the legal minefield Apple had to negotiate to get its iTunes video rental service off of the ground was complex, getting a Siri Apple TV up and running will prove far trickier. Actually building content access into a TV is no good if you can’t call up channels at will, ask for programmes from a free video-on-demand service such as 4OD or iPlayer or access the latest Netflix or Lovefilm shows by barking instructions.

Sadly, despite being technologically advanced, this thing just will not work if Siri is only compatible with iTunes downloads or rentals. If Apple thinks it will, they’re sorely mistaken. If it was a case of using voice commands for Apple content and then a remote for everything else, then this immediately becomes something frivolous rather than brilliantly futuristic.

You would imagine that discussions with networks, channels and content providers are already well under way. If they’re not, then next year’s mooted launch could well end up being a damp squib. Apple will have to prove that this is the future to some of the most hard-nosed execs in the entertainment industry. Essentially, it has to show that on-demand and streaming have matured to such an extent that a Siri Apple TV is where it’s at right now. If it can’t do that, then why would punters buy one when they can get similar on-demand services via set top boxes or Sony, Samsung and LG TVs?

This story has definitely got legs and won’t go away soon. But before the hype bandwagon starts rattling along, some serious questions need to be asked about whether this is pie-in-the-sky or a genuine attempt to shake up an industry in need of change.

  • http://twitter.com/lexplex_ lexusperplexus

    If I can own a TV that I can ask ‘Play that episode of The Simpsons where Homer sings “You don’t win friends with salad! You don’t win friends with salad!”‘ and it cues the episode straight up then I’ll be first in line.  Otherwise, I’m sticking to my usual TV. 

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