The Apple TV and the iPod

Jean-Louis Gassée echoes my thoughts on an Apple TV:

Second, I simply don’t believe Apple will make, or even wants to make, a TV set. To realize the dream, as discussed previously, you need to put a computer — something like an Apple TV module — inside the set. Eighteen months later, as Moore’s Law dictates, the computer is obsolete but the screen is just fine. No problem, you’ll say, just make the computer module removable, easily replaced by a new one; more revenue for Apple…and you’re right back to today’s separate box arrangement. And you can spread said box to all HDTVs, not just the hypothetical Apple-brand set.

In addition to upgradeability, there is a more fundamental reason that Apple won’t be selling a TV set. Apple is in the business of creating elegant solutions to technology problems. With TV, the problem isn’t with the TV. The problem is with the cable business model and the terrible set-top boxes we are forced to use. Apple makes computers. A set-top box is a computer. The TV set itself, is mostly just a display - an output device for a computer.

When Apple launched the iPod, they didn’t try and sell their own speakers (they eventually tried to sell the Hi-Fi, and it failed miserably). The iPod wasn’t a success because Apple improved speakers - there wasn’t a problem with speakers. The problem was with the music business model and clunky MP3 player hardware. The iPod was a hit because it provided elegant solutions to these technology problems. Likewise, the Apple TV will not be a success because it improves TV displays, but because it solves problems with the cable business model and set-top boxes.