Apple Teases iOS7 & Reimagined Apple TV

Apple’s unveiling of the new iOS7 is big news. A cleaner, crisper look will pair with new features to keep consumers coming back to Apple’s iPhones and iPads. It’s no secret that Apple is a big player in the mobile phone and tablet business. But they’re also hanging onto the home media business with their Apple TV, as evidenced by CEO Tim Cook’s remarks at the recent All Things D conference.

Cook, like his predecessor, enjoys teasing the media. Rather than say exactly what the company’s idea for the next great thing is, he couched his statements in suitably vague terms like “great interest” and “grand vision.” Those in the know, however, say that Cook’s coded language refers to plans to take Apple TV to the next level, squaring it off against Microsoft’s Xbox One.

Besting the uber-popular product from Seattle would be no simple task. That is why Apple’s VP of industrial design, Jony Ives, has a 50 inch Apple TV in his ultra-secure studio in Cupertino. Reports say that he is experimenting with ways to integrate iOS 7 with the great American pastime of watching television. His goal is to transform it into a fully interactive experience.

As social critics have pointed out, TV is used the same way now as when families of the 1950s gathered in the living room to watch the latest episode of The Honeymooners. While the number of channels has increased, the actual content is shaped by marketing decisions that strive for carbon copies of already-popular shows.

How Apple intends to change the current state of affairs is still anyone’s guess. But likely directions it will take television in include the following:

  • Greater personalization, such as giving viewers the ability to create stations that broadcast only content they wish to see. This is very similar to what services like do now for music: allow users to listen only to those formats that match their tastes.
  • The ability to freeze shows and go directly to an on-screen Internet browser. This could be helpful in numerous ways. For example, if an infomercial comes on touting the virtues of a new blender or coffee maker, the viewer could consult online reviews before deciding to whip out the credit card. Watchers could also follow informative links posted within the program itself. For instance, imagine that the news is talking about the latest crisis in an obscure part of the globe. Rather than scratching their heads and wondering where in the world the trouble spot is, viewers could read a quick summary that would give them the facts needed to understand the report.
  • E-commerce applications tailored to specific product offers, such as the ability to join savings clubs, download coupons, etc. These capabilities already exist to a limited degree with current technology. Apple may add additional features that would give consumers greater control.

Apple seems to be working toward a complete reimagining of how television interacts with people’s lives. If that’s the case, then it may be seeking to recreate for broadcast media what the iPad did for personal computing. Rather than blazing new trails, however, the computer giant would be following an already established trend. As demonstrates, streaming content providers like Netflix and Hulu have already changed the way we watch television.

The current Apple TV already connects with those services. Where future versions of the service may take the public in is known only to a handful of people in Apples’ inner circle. But that may not be the case for long.

Keith Andrews is a technology writer specializing in mobile trends. He lives in Silicon Valley with his wife and four awesome kids.