There has been no shortage of speculation about the potential of an iTV entering the market later this year.  I have been following the evolution of the Apple TV box for quite a while, particularly because Solstice has been called “Apple TV on Steroids” by more than one of our customers.  Currently these two products have different focus, but the ability to efficiently stream live video from mobile devices to a television are common to both.  Some of our enterprise customers who are interested in enabling conference room collaboration have purchased Apple TVs with the hope that its ability to receive a single iPad stream at a time would address some of the connectivity problems they’ve had in the conference room.  Because of this technology overlap, I’ve been watching the evolution of the Apple TV and was particularly interested when Apple began to downplay its future soon after the HD-version was released – referring to it as a hobby and focusing more on the sale of iPads into the home (second screen anyone?), rather than taking over the set top box.

Don’t be fooled, however, because Apple has grand designs on the home media experience and has been hinting at a bigger play for the market for more than a year.  In a 2012 earnings call, for example, CEO Tim Cook hinted at a bigger strategy than the box that is subservient to increasingly intelligent displays.  I think he couldn’t have been clearer:

“With Apple TV, however, despite the barriers in the market, for those of us who use it, we’ve always thought there was something there. And that if we kept following our intuition and kept pulling the string, then we might find something that was larger.”

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The barriers he is referring to is the competition and existing install base that the TV set top box represents. Think of the “string” as the video cable that exits the Apple TV. When you pull on that, you find the television.  What better way to leapfrog past the set top box competitors than to embed the box into the television and release a fully integrated iTV?

Rumors continue to abound that sometime around the 2013 holiday shopping season, iTV will be available. Well respected analysts such as Gene Munster from Piper Jaffray cited activities at Foxconn in his claims that a new product from Apple is on the horizon.

So what does this mean?  The focus of my world is conference room collaboration – making the experience simple, elegant, and supportive of ideas and decision making.  As we sell Solstice software into enterprise conference rooms, I’ve already seen a consolidation of hardware platforms from specialized expensive video switches and room control systems to a BYOD-focused, tablet-driven sharing experience.  What once required a fairly long chain of hardware boxes to ingest and deliver video to a shared screen can now be done by a single computer and software.  Although somewhat disruptive to the hardware manufacturers, this consolidation is a very good thing for the end user.  Consolidation of hardware platforms in the home market will be just as disruptive (good by Linux-based set top box appliances!) and just as good for the consumer.

Do you have Apple TV? What are your thoughts on the consolidation of hardware platforms in the home market?

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About Christopher Jaynes

Jaynes received his doctoral degree at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst where he worked on camera calibration and aerial image interpretation technologies now in use by the federal government. Jaynes received his BS degree with honors from the School of Computer Science at the University of Utah. In 2004, he founded Mersive and today serves as the company's Chief Technology Officer. Prior to Mersive, Jaynes founded the Metaverse Lab at the University of Kentucky, recognized as one of the leading laboratories for computer vision and interactive media and dedicated to research related to video surveillance, human-computer interaction, and display technologies.

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