Just when people start to count Apple out, just when their reach seems to be diminishing just a bit, they come out of nowhere and make a big splash. Yesterday, Samsung announced that their new SmartTVs will have support for iTunes movies and TV shows starting this Spring. The TVs will also include support for Apple’s AirPlay 2, giving them two of the primary features of the Apple TV.
There is no getting around the fact that this is big news on several fronts. First of all, this shows a surprising level of cooperation between Apple and Samsung. While the companies do work together on smartphone screens and components, they are still platform rivals on several fronts. That said, they don’t compete head to head in televisions or with settop boxes, so I guess both decided that this streaming deal was a good opportunity for a little “cooperatition.”
Second, this shows that Apple isn’t kidding around around becoming a Services company. This deal and their previous one with Amazon to allow Apple Music streaming on Echo devices show that they are willing to unlock at least some portions of their infamous walled garden to gain access to greater opportunities. This is all about maximizing their potential for revenue outside of current Apple users, which is really smart.
It is unclear at this point how far Apple will take this, but they have already gone in directions that most would never have guessed in advance. It will be interesting to see if they do the same with other media products, such as their coming new service based on the Texture acquisition. There are a few existing Apple products that could be opened up in similar ways, so it will be interesting to see what other moves they make.
Last, and most important, this agreement with Samsung shows that Apple won’t be limiting their coming video streaming content to their own platforms. While the ability to stream already-purchased iTunes content is all fine and good, it is clear what this deal is really all about for both companies. Apple’s video streaming content is the prize, and if it’s a hit, then this will be a solid win for both Apple and Samsung.
One interesting thing to watch here will be whether Apple charges for video content access or not. It has been rumored that Apple will make this service available free to their customers. However, I can’t imagine that will be the case for other users via a deal like this one with Samsung. Will the Apple faithfull really get this for free, or will we have to pay up, as well?
If you have a 2018 Samsung TV, don’t fret. You will also be able to get these new Apple streaming features via a coming firmware update. This is good, as I know that there were some really good sales on Samsung TVs on Black Friday and throughout the Holidays. My wife and I almost bought one, ourselves. It’s good to know that everyone with a relatively new Samsung TV will still be covered here.
Samsung isn’t the only one getting in on Apple’s new cross-platform act at CES, either. LG, Vizio and Sony all announced that they will also be adding support for AirPlay 2 and HomeKit to their 2019 Smart TVs. Harman Kardon (also owned by Samsung) will also have AirPlay 2 support this year, meaning Apple Music, Siri and multi-room audio will also work.
It looks like Apple has basically given up on the Apple TV becoming anything but a niche device for video snobs. However, considering that they’ve never been able to gain that much traction with it, this is likely a much smarter move for their future in Services.
This Samsung streaming deal and new level of openness are interesting, if not exciting news for Apple fans. It points to new things and new directions from Apple, especially in the Services department. If they want to start replacing more of the iPhone growth revenue that has been the lifeblood of their amazing rise over the last decade with money from Services and subscriptions, then expect more moves and more openness over the next year or two.