Apple is not known for doing things by halves. So, it was disappointing to see its latest big announcement fall slightly flat this week. Apple TV+ is the tech giant’s attempt to carve out a new reputation as producer and streamer of content, and in so doing make up for declining global hardware revenues. CEO Tim Cook was very clear to distance the new offering from industry giant Netflix, but inevitably comparisons will be made — and not hugely favourable ones.
That said, it would be foolish to write Apple off just yet.
What is Apple TV+?
Apple TV+ was launched at a typically hyped Cupertino event this week. Cook proclaimed to the audience that the new service “is unlike anything that's come before”. But is it? It’s certainly unlike anything that’s come before from Apple. The new streaming service will offer TV programmes, films and documentaries from leading producers, directors and actors. Among these titles will be Apple’s own content — but unlike Netflix it will eschew syndicated content, at least for now.
The “It’s Showtime” event saw some impressive names wheeled on stage to talk up the new launch, including Steve Spielberg, JJ Abrams and Oprah Winfrey. Yet it’s unlikely that Apple TV+ will be causing too many sleepless nights at Netflix HQ right now. In fact, unlike its industry leading hardware, Apple has a pretty shaky record on services: its Maps, Music and iCloud platforms have all failed to dominate their respective categories. Crucially, there was also no detail on Apple TV+ pricing, which will be key to pulling in punters.
Time and money
However, it would be foolish to write the project off at this early stage. Combined with a new Apple TV 4K model rumoured to be in the offing, it could prove to be a compelling addition to the smart home for many consumers. Apple has also been keen to differentiate its new services on privacy — in an obvious attempt to appeal to a growing number of consumers disillusioned with the likes of Facebook and Google. Apple TV+ is ad free and will not share any personal information with anyone, it promised. Its new credit card (detailed below) will also store purchase data on the device its tied to, and not send it to any third parties.
It’s worth remembering that when the iPhone was first launched, the reception was muted. Then-Microsoft boss Steve Ballmer even dismissed it as having “no chance” of gaining significant market share. Over 10 years and two billion iPhone sales later, he’s gone and the two biggest handset makers at the time, Nokia and Blackberry, are a shadow of their former selves.
So, give Apple a few years. It has the money to keep improving TV+ and history has shown it certainly has the time.
Banking on success?
Apple also dipped its toes into the waters of the financial services industry this week, with the launch of a new credit card. Its key features seem to be cash back on products (up to 3% on Apple products), improved visibility into spending, and no fees/lower interest. While the first two are also on offer from other providers, the lack of annual, late, foreign exchange and over-the-limit fees could be a big draw. There’s even a physical alternative to the digital version of the card, available in titanium.
Could this be Apple’s first shot across the bows as it looks to enter the traditional banking sector? Don’t rule it out: there are plenty of opportunities for it to do so, especially in Europe since new PSD2 banking rules opened up the market to third parties.
In the end, just as with Apple TV+, we’ll have to give it time. Just because Apple hasn’t wowed us from the start this time doesn’t mean these offerings won’t come to dominate the market in the years to come.
© CONTEXT 2019