TV is troubled these days. Not the content—we’re in the midst of a Cambrian explosion of excellent programming—but the process by which we discover, find, and consume it. Apple CEO Tim Cook said as much yesterday during the company’s big event in San Francisco. “The TV experience has been virtually standing still,” he proclaimed, while innovation flourishes in the mobile space.
The new Apple TV is Apple’s attempt to square those two facts. With all of its new features—tvOS, Siri, the tiny remote with the tinier trackpad—comes the slightest glimmer of a better future for smart television, one free of the UI problems we’ve seen thus far.
Among the many issues plaguing smart TVs is their sheer complexity. As we wrote more than a year ago, “They’ve always assumed more is better … heaping more streams, more services, and more content onto our sets without rethinking the interfaces for accessing them.” TV is satisfying because you get more out of it than you put into it—all you do is turn it on—but watching smart TV doesn’t feel intuitive and intelligent. You spend too much time scrolling through a wall of icons, deciding first where you want to go and only then deciding what you want to watch. Turning on a smart TVs is like idling in a digital Blockbuster store, forever evaluating the pros and cons of every show or movie in sight.
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