Will Apple TV 2019 ignite new business opportunity?

If so, it will be found at the intersection of AR, AI and the liberal arts...

Apple, Apple TV, iOS, WWDC, iPhone
Michael Simon/IDG

Apple’s big event is coming, and it’s time to take a look at Apple TV. Two years since Apple introduced Apple TV 4K the company’s upcoming upgrade is expected to deliver more of the same, with a plus.

What’s the business case?

It’s fair to say the introduction of app support in Apple TV didn’t really meet the high expectations many had for the device.

Many developers found that games were a little underpowered and most other categories of apps found little or no market, prompting many developers to cease building for the platform.

There are app categories that appear to do well on Apple TV: retail, real estate, mail order and educational apps, for example. These appear to be the strongest categories on the platform, after TV content apps and games.

WWDC 2019 saw Apple announce a few interesting improvements to its Apple TV operating system (tvOS), but none of these seem particularly likely to boost the business case for developers on the platform:

  • A new Home screen with video previews.
  • Multi-user support.
  • A new Control Center.
  • Song lyrics.
  • Games controller support.
  • New screen savers.

These improvements suggest that for least for the next few months, Apple’s primary focus with Apple TV is all about content. It seems to be working – even game streaming service Twitch is now coming to the platform.

Is new hardware on the way?

That focus on content suits the company’s present, but the future of the platform may see it reach out to its developer community once again.

Current speculation suggests Apple’s intention is to improve the product with a powerful A12 Bionic processor, as used in the current iPhone range.

That’s a significant improvement on the previous A10X chip in the Apple TV 4K. It means graphics and apps will be better, but also means third-party developers may be able to begin to build Apple TV apps that exploit the built-in AI of the neural engine.

That latter point could generate some interesting opportunities for developers to create apps that combine artificial intelligence with solutions that make sense in a person’s home.

Taken alongside Apple’s growing focus on home security (HomeKit Secure Video, HomeKit-enabled routers, its Lighthouse purchase and purported Tile competitor), there may be opportunities for private and secure home security and augmentation services – though I’ll wait and see if that’s what happens.

Meanwhile, however…

We may never see third-party Apple TV developers explore the potential frontiers of augmented reality experiences, artificial intelligence augmentation and content development, but I’d be surprised.

Meanwhile, however, you’re looking at Apple’s upcoming Apple TV+ service, which will inevitably drive another business opportunity in creating compelling content for this and other streaming services.

(Though the potential to exploit the compelling platform technologies with which Apple will eventually support content created for its platforms may make Apple TV a gateway to new opportunities in storytelling and the creative arts.)

That’s Apple TV+…

There’s also Apple Arcade.

Apple’s gaming service is already generating opportunity for dozens of the world’s leading developers, because Apple is investing in content creation.

We don’t know too much about what has been developed yet, but we are likely to find out more in the coming weeks and (once again) it seems pretty clear AR will be part of the company’s plans.

It’s possible the company is also crafting a path toward licensing components of its Apple TV hardware to others, though that’s a long shot.

What it is doing is ensuring its content can proliferate on other platforms by providing AirPlay 2 and Apple TV+ support to them, though the chief beneficiaries of this are content creators and the company’s own content services.

Summing up, is there an enterprise business opportunity for the next generation of Apple TV? If there is, it will be found at the intersection of AR, AI and the liberal arts, with a focus on collaboration, retail and discovery.

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Copyright © 2019 IDG Communications, Inc.

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