Apple Turns Its i To Television

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Are you paying attention to Apple‘s next move?

At the top of the trending rumors for the next version of the iPad (iPad 3 – for those keeping score at home) is that it will have retina display. The everyday user of the iPhone 4 probably doesn’t realize how powerful this feature-set is for the mobile device. It’s also a feature that Apple apparently struggled to get into the iPad 2, but simply couldn’t get it perfected in time (it’s also important to note that all of these stories are based on hearsay as Apple never speaks publicly about product development, challenges, upcoming devices, applications or features). In simple terms, retina display creates a pixel density so tight that the human eye is unable to make them out. In even simpler terms, retina display makes reading on a screen as good as (if not better than) the resolution that the human eye captures when it reads the printed word. Yes, the line between resolution quality of print and screen has happened. On the iPhone 4, everything not only looks crisp at every size, but the resolution quality is as good as print.


While many are still lamenting Steve Jobs‘ decision to resign from Apple last week and what that impact will have on the company (which is one of the most valued in the world), it’s clear that their product development roadmap and lifecycle is primed for another major disruption of an already established media industry. Beyond personal computers, mobile devices, the music and film industry, it seems clear that television could well be the next entertainment industry that Apple looks to re-invent (and own).

Prime time.

If retina display is ready for prime time (pardon the pun) on the iPad 3, the bigger breakthrough will be if they can deliver retina display to any screen size. If so, how difficult will it be for Apple to create a screen that actually looks (and acts) like a very, very large iPad? Much of the initial dissent about the value of Apple’s iPad when it first launched was that it was simply a large version of the iPhone (without the phone). Apple proved that there was a huge market for this type of tablet device and you can imagine what a sixty-four inch version might look like (push that further and imagine using your iPad or iPhone as the remote control to flick content on to the screen). As an interim concept, take a look at the recently update iMac computers the next time you’re strolling by an Apple store… it’s an impressive and beautiful sight to behold.

I won’t be the first.

I wish I could lay claim to being the first person to talk about the possibility of Apple entering the TV fray, but this has become a burgeoning topic of conversation by technology journalists and media pundits alike. VentureBeat‘s news item, Apple is working on a television for 2012, sources say, published on August 26th, 2011 points to multiple indicators that this concept is more than likely already something Apple is tinkering away with in their labs. Pointing to more than five different sources, the article says: “Venture capitalist Stewart Alsop, of Alsop Louie ventures, lent credence to the ‘iTelevision’ theory in an interview with VentureBeat. Alsop sits on the boards of TiVo and Sonos, follows the hardware industry closely, and says he has heard from multiple sources throughout Silicon Valley that the Apple television project is underway.”

What about Apple TV?

Apple has already had Apple TV in market since 2006, but the second generation (which came out in September 2010) has already begun the true fusion of online content with our television screens. Along with being able to rent or own the latest television shows and movies (although, last week Apple stopped allowing consumers to rent TV episodes), Apple TV (along with competitors like Boxee and even Xbox 360) also enables consumers to watch YouTube on their TVs and stream movies from Netflix. To date, the success of Apple TV has been minor when compared to the computer, iPhone and iPad market, but just imagine a world in which Apple is able to perfect a new kind of television screen and integrate that with the content of Apple TV. If you’re having a hard time with that image, take a look at what the iPod combined with iTunes did to the music industry.

Is TV the future for Apple?

It seems like one of many obvious paths, especially when you consider the appetite that we all still have for watching content and the lack of true innovation from within the television and broadcasting industry. In looking closer at the technical ability to steam digital content in HD anywhere, the likelihood seems even more obvious. The challenge will be in how Apple deals with both the cable and mobile operators and how those operators change consumers for bandwidth – the issue of both cost and throttling access is already a hot debate.

Stay tuned. 

The above posting is my twice-monthly column for the Montreal Gazette and Vancouver Sun newspapers called, New Business – Six Pixels of Separation. I cross-post it here with all the links and tags for your reading pleasure, but you can check out the original versions online here:


  1. It’s not clear to me what kind of innovation that Apple could bring to the table that would require integration between the computing device and the display. In other words, what could an iTV do that an Apple TV connected to my TV is not be able to do?
    What exactly does “perfect a new kind of television screen” even mean? We are not wanting for televisions in the same way that we were wanting for a great mp3 player/music ecosystem when iPod/iTunes hit, or for a great mobile computing platform/app ecosystem when iPhone/App Store took off.
    Apple moves into a market when it knows that it can reinvent it or take it to a place where nobody else can take it. I totally get the content delivery piece of this equation, but I don’t see where Apple selling television sets necessarily follows.

  2. I don’t think we’ll see retina displays on televisions anytime soon, for a couple of reasons:
    – the cost would be prohibitive
    – the HD standard for the next little while will be 1080p (not counting 21:9 ultrawide displays), so a retina display would be a waste on a televisions
    A TV with an integrated A5 or later chip that has all your apps within reach of your iphone remote on the other hand could be fun ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. Quoting from your post,
    “push that further and imagine using your iPad or iPhone as the remote control to flick content on to the screen).”
    I’d like to see it (in true apple fashion) go further. Develop something like the Xbox Kinect and allow you to “swipe” on your 64″ screen by gesturing in the air…from your easy chair.
    I have two Apple TVs and love them, but the remote function is pretty basic and could be game-changing if they focus on tv.
    Plus, a retina display on my tv? I’m drooling already.

  4. The thing is, it won’t be a “TV” anymore. It will be a 46″ iPad, which you can touch and interact with as well as consume media. I’ve got my credit card out right now.

  5. Check my math and extraploation, folks, and lemme know what you think: If the “Retina Display” is 326 PPI, a 64″ 16:9 version would have a resolution of approximately 18200×10224. That’s roughly 9.5HD! Way beyond the highest resolutions now, which aren’t even yet built because they would be prohibitively expensive and heavy.
    But that’s just the engineering side, based on technology at present (which will come in time). The positied theory, though, sparks the imagination for applications!

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