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Silly and Not-So-Silly Expectations About an iWatch and Apple TV

Apple doesn’t have to do a thing for the publicity engine to roll along about the possibilities of a wearable device and the Apple TV. All it takes is for the rumor mills to keep coming up with new information, regardless of whether that information has any basis or not.

These days, it’s fair to say that there is no actual support for anything other than the current state of the Apple TV set top box. Yes, we know Apple has a “grand vision” about where to take the product, but that doesn’t mean the company deems us ready to know what that vision is.

Of course, lacking solid information from Apple, it’s normal to turn to the media, including rumor sites that specialize in news about our favorite fruit company. But that doesn’t mean the information is necessarily accurate, although it sure seems that all the chatter about the next generation of iPhones may be right on. It’s just too consistent, and reliable information no doubt easily leaks from the supply chain, since it’s just too large to silence.

But reports about what Apple is doing with wearable gear or a real TV set are scarce. Apple supposedly added 100 engineers to an alleged iWatch project, and has been trademarking the name in various countries. These stories, if true, indicate that Apple plans to do something, but what that something might be remains guesswork. Right now, the Apple watchers are looking at an iWatch through the eyes of existing gear. This means it’ll work as an accessory to an iPhone, similar to the way the smartwatches from Samsung, Sony and other companies operate.

On the other hand, why view such a device in the image of what’s already gone before? Apple has had a knack to remake industries, and that doesn’t mean doing the same old things. It seems that a lot of members of the media who examine this subject aren’t considering a different approach. So what if Apple shipped an iWatch with a built-in phone, along with a Bluetooth headset, barely visible, which you’d use instead of putting the watch to your face, as Dick Tracy did in the comics? Why should an iWatch be tethered to another device, except, of course, optionally?

Now one commentator, who actually boasts about never having used an Apple product, though it seems he invests in the company, suggests that iWatch is actually the name of something else you’ll be watching — a TV set.

Why iWatch? Well, as the writer in question realizes, the name iTV isn’t suitable, since it’s the name of an existing TV network in the UK. Sure, Apple wasn’t bothered by the fact that the Beatles used the name Apple when setting up a company. Today Apple Inc. owns the entire trademark, although it’s still used by the surviving members of the Fab Four. But it’s not that the iTV network would necessarily be willing to license the name to Apple, or that an Apple TV set must have an “i” prefix. Don’t forget Macs, with only one model, the iMac, bearing that branding scheme.

But calling a TV an iWatch doesn’t make it for me. Most people would assume it was meant to be a connected watch of some sort, and I fail to see how Apple would get around that perception. It’s just not a sensible choice. So what about AppleVision?

Forget it! I’m not a marketing expert, nor do I play one on a TV, or whatever you choose to call it.

However, the jury is really still out on whether Apple can do something with the saturated TV market, or needs to in order to fix the way you interact with a TV set. If a revised Apple TV could take over the entire experience, wouldn’t that be sufficient? If the prospective 2013 Apple TV was available in a version that took over your TV and the peripherals, wouldn’t that greatly simplify the experience?

Sure, Apple would probably prefer to replace your Blu-ray and gaming console, though they would still have to interact with your existing soundbars or other audio systems. The real problem would be handling those pathetic IR sensors for remote controls. One solution would be for Apple to provide tiny paste-on Wi-Fi sensors for each of those gadgets, so you get wide-range, non-directional control.

When it comes to replacing all of your TV’s content, Apple is reportedly struggling to strike deals with the entertainment companies, possibly paving the way to serve as an alternative to your existing cable or satellite provider. Sure, we’ve heard about cord cutting, people who no longer use cable or satellite. But the numbers of real switchers are fairly low, mostly confined to younger people who are used to iTunes and Neflix and other streaming methods. There’s nothing wrong with getting your existing diet of TV channels, even if the existing interfaces suck.

So Apple is also reportedly trying to make a deal with Time Warner Cable, and you assume they’d try to do the same with other carriers. It’s not that most already have iOS apps. This would simply transfer control of the entire user experience to Apple. Your DVR could even use cloud-based content, rather than deal with a local box with a built in drive. Certainly it would be more reliable, but there’s that limitation of hitting your ISP’s bandwidth caps that might come into play. That is, unless Apple makes special deals with major ISPs to get around that limitation for customers who aren’t using their own TV services.

In any case, it’s clear to me that we know absolutely nothing about what Apple is planning for an iWatch or an AppleVision, or Apple connected TV. That they are possibly testing such products doesn’t tell us how they will be configured, or marketed. And don’t dismiss the possibility of Apple licensing technology to existing TV makers. That’s being done already with auto makers.