Forget the rumored iPad Pro, what 2014 needs is a better Apple TV
Rumors of a 13-inch iPad Pro were once again making the rounds this week, amped up by talk of a 4K Retina display. I have absolutely no idea whether or not it will ever become a real product, but I’ll happily go on record saying I don’t think 4k resolution makes a lot of sense for a tablet. It’s possible someone might put one out, and it’s definitely possible that there is a market for one, but I don’t think it’s possible for such a product to financially matter to a company like Apple in 2014. Personally, I think Apple could get more bang for the buck if they opened a game store for the Apple TV.
The $99 Apple TV set top box (we have to stop calling it that considering how small it is) is already compelling for YouTube, iTunes, and Netflix access. Add iOS games to the mix and bring forth some bluetooth controllers and I think we’ll see Apple TV volume explode by an order of magnitude.
If we look at comments made by Tim Cook in 2013, they had an installed base of about 13 million Apple TV devices and were on track to sell about 7 million per year. I suspect this pace has already accelerated, and I look forward to Apple reporting an update after the holiday season. So what if they can ramp that up an order of magnitude by making the device way more useful? What if Apple can sell 50 to 100 million units per year? Priced at a hundred bucks, even 100 million units only translates into $10 billion in revenue, which moves the needle very little on a total top line of close to $200 billion.
But I’m much more interested in what Apple can do with that kind of Apple TV volume. Can they leverage their way into content delivery? Can they take on Netflix (or buy them)? Can they roll out new money-grabbing services?
It seems to me the Apple TV is the product with the most potential over the next year, aside from any secret new product categories we don’t know about. It has all the potential of iOS yet, so far, none of the product polish that Apple is really known for. Enhance the remote. Slick-up the user interface. Maybe put a camera in it for video conferencing. Allow iPods, iPhones, and MFi to connect in for multi player games. Sell us access to sporting events where we use our handheld device to pick from multiple camera angles or replays. If you can't work with the cable companies, make them obsolete.
I'm not that creative, and I'm sure Apple has even better ideas then this. But it seems to me, rather than simply making bigger screen iOS devices, making the big screen more useful offers a ton of upside for Apple.