The future of television and why Apple TV is not the answer, at least not yet

In a just about two years time, the entire United States will be making a historic change in the way we watch television.  While many may not consider the switch from analog to digital, as big of a deal as black and white to color, this change is no small feat.  Currently, most station are broadcasting both digital (ATSC) and the current standard (NTSC) analog signals.  This really means that most of the work is done, however, it is now up the consumer to take advantage of this change.

Concurrently internet based programing and distribution is becoming more and more popular.  Websites like YouTube bring viral video to the masses, while services like iTunes, allow consumer to download movies and TV shows.  And this trend is becoming more available as new companies are adding services like these everyday.  There are major issues with this model however.

The switch from NTSC to ATSC is not common knowledge.  Most consumers are aware of HDTV, but do not really understand how to get it or even why it is better.  While electronic stores offer more and more HDTV sets, there are very few consumers that actually take full advantage.

Television is supposed to be a simple and strait forward box.  You turn it on, you see picture, and if you want to see something else you change the channel.  This is what TV is and it is all it should ever be.  Now, DVR or PVR, whatever you want to call them, have definitely changed part of this, but keep with TV’s original simplicity. Watching content online complicates things greatly.

The Apple TV is supposed to bridge the gap.  And it does, to an extent.  But there is far to many complexities involved to make this a painless transition.  For the consumer who is tech savvy the Apple TV will make a lot of sense, but for old grandma and grandpa, forget it.

What is the solution for the future of TV?

Of course there is no easy answer.  Times change and people change, but the idea of TV is and will always be the same.  However, the idea of video can, will and has changed over the years.

The idea of getting content over the internet is a good one, but very different from that of TV.  It is almost the same difference as reading a book, or reading the same book on a website.  TV is a simple mostly one way medium, the internet is a multi directional interactive environment.  Receptively, both can work together and can even share content.  But when I am watching TV (or a movie), I am into the story and I don’t want to be interrupted.  When I am researching and looking for information, I want interactivity and a so called spider web of information.

My point is that TV and the internet are two very different types of media, and consumer work with them in different ways.  If there is a show that I missed on TV I can go online search for it, possibly by it and watch it.  The catch is I am in front of my computer and not on the couch.  Okay, enter the Apple TV.  Sorry still not as easy as turning on the TV to channel 4.

So while both mediums are interesting in their own ways, I don’t think that they are competition or even comparable for that matter.  Each has it own place, and consumers will approach each differently.  That is until technology bridges the gap, the Apple TV is a start, but only for the tech savvy viewer.