How should Apple approach rumored product categories?
"I’d like to create an integrated television set that is completely easy to use," he told me. "It would be seamlessly synced with all of your devices and with iCloud." No longer would users have to fiddle with complex remotes for DVD players and cable channels. "It will have the simplest user interface you could imagine. I finally cracked it."
Let me be clear: the television set is a weak rumor. It's essentially pure speculation outside of the current Apple TV being called "an area of intense interest", mixed with a quote from Walter Isaacson's Steve Jobs biography (this link incorrectly spells the author's name, by the way). I'd be surprised if Apple hasn't created a concept for a kitchen appliance at some point, so the rumor that one exists in a concept lab is not a surprise to me.
Allow me to take a moment and put myself in Tim Cook's shoes. A "Tim Cook" that is absolutely committed to creating an Apple-branded TV set.
This product is not just to honor my great friend Steve and bring his concept to life, but also to actually bolster our product lineup and further strengthen our business. How would I go about it? Profit margins are already razor-thin in this market. Of course, our margins would be better than most, but it's still likely not a very worthwhile venture.
How are other reputable brands doing in this market? Samsung seems to be excelling, but where are Panasonic, Sony, LG and the rest? Sure, some (LG) are doing a bit more than treading water, but others (Sony) just can't seem to get a large enough slice of the market. Why would they continue to down this path for much longer? Sony once dominated consumer electronics. I can't help but think that we (Apple) had a hand in their demise with the introduction of the iPod.
Here's the plan, Sony: I want you to manufacture the Apple Television. We are going to provide you with the internal components and operating system to ensure that it runs smoothly, and also all of the content for it. It of course will have a couple of connections for external devices (such as your Playstation 4), but we'd like to keep extra peripherals/cabling to a bare minimum. Did I mention Jony and his team are going to design the entire set for you? We need you to build these well enough to meet our extremely high quality standards, but cheaply enough that we sell millions.
We will offer it at a premium price of course, but once they see it and then USE it, the extra cost will be completely justified. I have one last bit, though. Since you are our first partner, you'll receive all of the hardware profits. We realize that this is market has an extremely slow upgrade rate. We do aim to speed that up a bit, but we need to create a frenzy before we can start down that path.
I'm a terrible Tim Cook, I'll admit it. I think the concept is solid, though. It's almost ALL upside for a company like Sony who wants desperately to succeed in this market. Surely sales could not be worse for them unless this concept was absolute crap. For Apple, the only major risk is that it could be seen as a flop. I suppose this idea is made to combat that possibility. If it were to flop, the manufacture would still likely be ahead of where they were, allowing the product to continue for a few years while the bulk of the functionality is transferred back to the Apple TV set-top-box (which I didn't mention, but is discontinued or has few of the same features as the set... in my concept.).
If it succeeds, you offer these same opportunities to all manufactures, for a price (percentage of hardware sales). See who bites. Like I said, the TV set rumor is extremely weak at this point. But it is certainly the most fun to speculate about.
To touch on the "iWatch": the device could very easily end up being a different form factor than most people are thinking. I hope Tim knows that he would have to do something extraordinary in watch form to really silence his critics. To make a watch with JUST great features that we've seen before, despite how integrated or well it works, will probably not help his career. Aside from great design (most of these things are hideous, in fact), the bar is already extremely high for functionality on your wrist. Google will join the party soon and raise it even higher, as well.
After all, there is zero evidence that it will be a watch, aside from the current trend. And if Apple were to think of another (convenient, not totally goofy) location to include a screen, it would immediately lower the bar for innovative functionality. I’m not saying they should skimp on real innovation, but they should absolutely seek out a marketing advantage if it exists.
If it does end up being a watch, it absolutely has to do the things it does better than it's competition. In my opinion, at least one of those things must be done in some mind-blowing way, that consumers can not live without after they've used it.
This should go without saying, but these are not predictions… Just ideas and opinions.