Forget Phones: Why Apple’s Streaming TV Launch is Tim Cook’s Most Important One Yet
The Cupertino company could use a win, and it’s banking on this big move in more ways than one.
PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images
Apple's announcement of a new streaming TV service has been several years in the making, if not far longer. Now that it's finally here, this day is sure to go down as a turning point in the next chapter of the monolithic tech company's story:
Either this is the launch that helps Apple reinvent itself and maintain dominance yet again, or the big flop that signals an accelerating slide towards irrelevance.
Yes, that's a pretty big hedge on my part, but this is a company that's earned every benefit of the doubt.
Fact one: Apple is coming to the streaming TV and original video content game really, really late.
I mean, come on: it's been six years since Netflix won its first Emmy award for "House of Cards." Man, oh man, how things have changed since those days, but I digress...
Fact two: Apple has rarely succeeded by being first, but rather by coming late to the party, cleaning things up and making it far more inviting to a much bigger crowd.
In other words, Apple has mastered the art of iterating upon the work of other groundbreakers. Countless clunky MP3 players and tablets predated the iPod and iPad, and Blackberry dominated before the iPhone.
But the past few years, the personal tech hardware market has become pretty mature and the level of innovation between each iteration of new phones and tablets has slowed drastically. New phone launches and even the latest smart speakers don't generate near the level of excitement a shiny new iPhone did just five years ago.
"Apple can no longer rely on a new phone with a bigger screen or more cameras to retain its dominant position," says Mark Skilton, professor of practice at Warwick Business School.
With the growth in hardware headed for a plateau, Apple has long been looking towards TV as its next frontier to dominate. Word is that Steve Jobs had a vision for Apple to take over the living room and for several years there was a constant churn of rumors that the company would follow its Apple TV settop interface with an Apple HDTV flatscreen.
But it's now 12 years since the Apple TV settop unit premiered and the HDTV never materialized.
The reported narrative says that somewhere around the midpoint of this decade, the project to develop an Apple HDTV was abandoned. Within a few years, the push to go the streaming and content route apparently intensified.
Word is Apple is investing over a billion dollars in original content in an attempt to elbow its way into a space dominated by the likes of Netflix, Amazon and Google/YouTube.
The question is: will it be enough? Is Apple actually too late this time?
"Is Apple really going to beat Netflix?" Skilton wonders. "Even if they roll out the red carpet for movie stars, it will be a challenge for Apple to provide a compelling new TV experience... It is not reinventing the TV and content market the way the iPhone did for mobile communication."
And yet, all the elements that made the iPhone a success - like its touchscreen - were present in competing devices in 2007, but no company put them together in the way Apple does or was able to run them through the fan fare of an Apple launch.
So stay tuned to watch the brand new Apple show and see how it turns out, whether you're a subscriber or not.