Hell Freezes Over for Apple (Again)

In October, 2003, Steve Jobs announced that hell froze over when the company announced its release of iTunes for Windows. (Go to 18:45 in the video.)

Yesterday, Apple announced that an iTunes Movies & TV Shows app will becoming to Samsung TVs (and eventually to other brands as well). In addition, Samsung TVs will support AirPlay 2 (as will other brands’ devices).

Hell is freezing over for Apple because the company has finally accepted that it cannot make enough money from its video offerings just with Apple devices (ie, the iPhone, iPad, and Apple TV). This also suggests that the Apple TV has seen its last iteration. If Apple can put the same apps on any smart TV – which is, of course, not complicated – why have a separate device? I suspect we’ll also see an Apple Music app on these TVs before long (as is already the case for Android phones and tablets).

This is the biggest step in Apple’s morphing from a hardware company to a services company and one that has similar implications to their releasing a Windows version of iTunes. That software led to the explosion of popularity of the iPod, and probably 90% of iPod users were Windows users. Things are different with TVs, but Apple has realized that a standalone streaming box isn’t what people want; as more and more services are available directly from TVs, it makes sense to slim down the living room and get another device out of the way. (Of course, this change is not linked to a hardware product that could become a market leader, so Apple has a much bigger struggle ahead of them.)

On Apple’s AirPlay page, the company highlights the fact that AirPlay 2 is coming to TVs from “Leading TV manufacturers,” and this, too, makes sense. You’ll be able to stream audio from a TV to the HomePod, or to an AirPlay 2 compatible soundbar, such as the Sonos Beam, which I recently bought. Streaming AirPlay 2 to a device like that means one less cable to worry about, but I still wouldn’t want to stream to one or a pair of HomePods, at least not until there’s adjustable EQ settings for the devices.

Don’t forget that Apple controls the AirPlay 2 system, and will be extracting licensing fees from these companies, but they may be more flexible in order to get AirPlay 2 on more devices. There are already lots of audio devices that support AirPlay, many of which haven’t yet been updated to support AirPlay 2, but I suspect that those devices that can do the upgrade – that have the necessary hardware – will be doing so more quickly now, as Apple sees an interest in extending this protocol.

The big change here is that Apple has realized that their silo is no longer big enough to fuel their ambitions; that they need to branch out with their services in order to get enough users. We know that Apple will be announcing an original video content service soon, and it makes sense that users of non-Apple devices can watch it.

Also, I suspect we will see the Apple app being offered on existing TVs. While not all TVs will support AirPlay 2, I see no reason why any would not support a couple of Apple apps.

As a hardware company, Apple could afford to be exclusive; but as a services company, they must be as inclusive as possible.

0 thoughts on “Hell Freezes Over for Apple (Again)

  1. “This also suggests that the Apple TV has seen its last iteration. If Apple can put the same apps on any smart TV – which is, of course, not complicated – why have a separate device?”

    You could be right. But two points in favor of Apple continuing to make Apple TV’s:

    Smart TV’s, as well as streaming devices such as Roku, are known for their lack of privacy. An Apple TV is much more secure and does a better job in respecting consumers’ privacy. While many consumers simply don’t care, many do. And Apple markets its products and services as such.

    Also, it’s doubtful that any smart TV would serve as an Apple HomeKit hub.

    In any event, these are interesting times.

    • Good point about HomeKit. I wonder how many people buy the Apple TV for that. As for privacy, I read something that Apple’s app on the TVs will not allow much data to be shared, but we’ll need to see it in action to be sure.

  2. “I read something that Apple’s app on the TVs will not allow much data to be shared, but we’ll need to see it in action to be sure.”

    Verifying products is commendable, but let’s not stick our head in the sand. Apple’s is loudly and incessantly promoting the protection of privacy/security as its peerless calling card. (“What Happens on iPhone Stays on iPhone” – Google it.)

  3. “What Happens on iPhone Stays on iPhone” Really? 🙂

    Except when Google pays Apple $3B/year just to be the default search engine for Safari. You don’t believe that Google pays out this amount without any return on its investment, do you?

    Just Google how much Apple pays per year to Google… “Hey Siri…” search engine is also Google…

  4. Nilay Patel asked a similar question – “Why would any Samsung smart TV owner buy an Apple TV box now?” – and it’s such a baffling mentality. Have you used a Samsung smart TV? Or any smart TV? The very very very best smart TVs are fine. Most are actively bad, some unusably so. You buy an Apple TV for the same reason you always have: because it’s a far better experience.

    Not to mention the fact that absolutely no one was buying an Apple TV purely for access to the iTunes Store. There are plenty of other movie stores available.

    • I have an LG TV. It’s not bad. Given what I do on a TV – launch an app, find something to watch – I don’t see this as an issue. I have an Apple TV mainly to access iTunes Store content; both content I already own, and rentals. This said, it is a better experience overall than using the TV, if only because of the remote having only a few buttons (especially now that, with the latest model, you cane easily find which button is which).

  5. I don’t see the Apple TV going anywhere, unless the Apple App that’s included on the Samsung TV runs the full tvOS, which would effectively replace Samsung’s interface and OS. That would be a wonderful thing.

    I purchased a Samsung TV in 2012 and I used to use it exclusively for my streaming needs, even though I also have an Apple TV. Over time, my smart hub apps stopped working and developers announced they would no longer support the device. For me, the discontinuation of the MLB app was the last straw.

    Now, I use my Apple TV for almost all streaming. I never go to the Samsung SmartHub anymore. FWIW, I also have the ill-fated Google-TV, the Amazon Fire, Chromecast, DirectTV & Comcast. Even with all of those options, Apple TV wins almost always. My apps still work, even on my oldest Apple TV.

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