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No, the future of TV is not apps

Apple solved the biggest problem with the Apple TV by going back on their original idea.

Photo by Ash Edmonds on Unsplash

When Apple unveiled the modern Apple TV in 2015, they had a catchy slogan to go along with it. This mantra was repeatedly mentioned during the press event, leaving many, I’m sure, to walk away muttering the phrase excitedly under their breath.

The future of TV is apps.

The future of TV is apps. That’s definitely how it felt at the time. Watching presenters take the stage to showcase all the features of this new generation of Apple TV and it’s accompanying software, you couldn’t help but feel inspired. You could just imagine a future where every piece of on-demand content imaginable was there on your television, tucked inside an app. At the press of a button, that app, filled to the brim with your favorite shows, would expand to cover the glorious 77” expanse of that plasma screen. Technology was a wonderful thing.

It was the interface of your phone, on a TV screen. Suddenly, instead of being limited to a selection of live channels, you had access to apps. On demand apps. Just like your phone or iPad. TV was suddenly your own experience. It was personal.

It was great! Until you wanted to find something and you didn’t know what app to look in.

The problem was that apps were compartmentalized

Each app had its own unique selection of content. If you were looking for a specific show, you had to first know what network owned it, and thus what app to use.

This wasn’t too big of a problem. After all, you could use the Search app or Siri to find the content you were looking for.

But what if you wanted to discover something new? What if you didn’t know what you were looking for?

You could just look in each app individually until you found something you wanted to watch, but that would be extraordinarily inefficient. Instead, Apple solved the problem a year later.

Photo from apple.com/newsroom

Apple solved that problem by abandoning apps

In 2016, Apple unveiled the Apple TV app. This app integrated content from all the apps on your Apple TV, presenting you with content from all of your providers, from ABC to Hulu.

The Apple TV app solved the problem of finding content by abandoning the concept of apps.

Now, you could use just one app to access all of your recently watched movies and TV shows and discover new ones at the same time. It was the perfect solution.

To solve the problem of content discoverability, Apple realized that they had to go back on their idea that the future of TV was apps. Apps segregate content. They compartmentalize. They make it harder for the user to find what he’s looking for.

Today, the future of TV is content. Discoverable content, centralized in one app. That’s what Apple discovered, and it’s how the Apple TV works today.

Thanks for reading!

No, the future of TV is not apps was originally published in UX Planet on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.