Media

Apple will need more than Siri to make its TV plans succeed

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“Siri, record all new episodes of the Desperate Bridezillas of Jersey Shore.”

That may be how we’ll talk to our Apple television sets in the next few years, the New York Time’s Nick Bilton postulates.

With Steve Jobs’ posthumous claim that he “cracked” the code for an Apple TV interface, everyone’s trying to figure out just what he meant. Bilton assumes the only logical answer is Siri, Apple’s intelligent virtual assistant, currently exclusive to the iPhone 4S. But personally, I think Apple will need to do a lot more than just squeeze in Siri to make its mark in the TV market.

“As the line between television programming and Web content continues to erode, a Siri-powered television would become more necessary,” Bilton writes. “You aren’t going to want to flip through file folders or baskets of content, checking off what you want. Telling Siri to “play videos of cute cats falling asleep” would return an endless YouTube stream of adorable napping fur balls.”

Apple has been working on a television interface for years, but the company has struggled to replace the ubiquitous (but user-unfriendly) remote control as the primary TV interface, sources in the know tell Bilton.

Indeed, Siri seems like a good solution, since it’s much easier to tell your TV what you’d like to watch than to peck through countless channels or TV guide pages. But I have a hard time believing it’ll completely replace the remote, since Siri’s voice commands, while usually accurate, can sometimes fall apart when you’re referencing an unusual name or place. Good luck telling Siri to find you the next showing of Koyaaanisqatsi.

Apple has already developed a simplified remote, which was first built for iMacs and other Apple hardware years ago, and is now included with the Apple TV. But since it only sports a few buttons — direction arrows, an enter button, pause/play, and a menu button — it’ll likely be too minimal to control an entire TV set.

To step into the TV arena, Apple will still need to rework the classic remote controller somehow. Google is facing the same difficulty right now with Google TV, which first launched with a full-sized keyboard on the Logitech Revue, and a monstrous mini-keyboard with Sony’s GTV sets.

And of course, Apple will need many more features than just a simplified interface to entice consumers. If Apple does step into televisions (and many signs seem to indicate that it will), it will also have to compete against more established TV makers when it comes to price and web-enabled features. Somehow, I don’t think slapping the Apple TV’s interface on a television set will be enough.