Could Apple’s (AAPL) future as a multichannel video distributor lie not with AppleTV but with the iPad? Might the “best of TV” iTunes subscription offering the company has been pitching to TV networks since last November be primarily intended for that device, which Apple is positioning as the successor to its sleeper AppleTV platform? With company executives still dismissing AppleTV as a “hobby” and TV itself becoming a more personal, intimate experience, it’s worth thinking about.
Consider this scenario from Bernstein Research analyst Craig Moffett.
Imagine a portable set top box, but with its own killer screen. When in the home, it would be docked in a cradle connected to iTunes via a wired broadband pipe. Navigation of programming guides and iTunes listings would occur on the iPad, using an intuitive touch interface. Output would go directly to the wide-screen TV on the wall…until you left the house. Then, you’d simply pop the device out of its cradle and take it with you. And in the process, you’d be taking your TV with you as well. A 3G (and eventually 4G) wireless connection would allow you to keep watching live TV in the back of the car or cab. Once you got on the airplane you could choose from a library of your favorite shows saved on your DVR…which also happens to be a half-inch thick ergonomically gorgeous high definition tilt-sensitive screen that fits comfortably in your hands.
A dockable, portable set-top box with LED-backlit widescreen display? Seems a bit of a stretch at this point. And it would be enormously bandwidth-intensive. But it’s not entirely inconceivable, is it?
UPDATE: Mark Sigal recently made a similar observation over at O’Reilly Radar, using MLB’s iPad app as an example:
Similarly, MLB (Major League Baseball) showcased their MLB app, which overlays graphics, information feeds, video clips and live game programming in a way that is simultaneously immersive, interactive and highly entertaining. It is both suggestive of a media-centric killer app for the IPad and a bellwether for the future of TV Anywhere, yet another reason that I believe Apple’s ambitions with respect to Apple TV remain very much alive.