Thanks to the famous Apple distortion field, it’s easy to get caught up in the Apple rumour mill. Today for instance, leaked images of a new iPhone case have the blogosphere in full speculation mode as to the dimensions of the upcoming iPhone 5.
Thinner! Bigger screen! Repositioned volume buttons! Can you believe how breathless we’ve become about attributes that should frankly illicit little more than a yawn were they in regards to *any* other company. But this is Apple we’re talking about and the usual rules clearly don’t apply.
Which brings me to my favourite Apple rumour-du-jour, which has nothing to do with the next iPhone.
Instead, it concerns a project that many have been theorizing on for some time: Apple is poised to bring an HDTV to market.
I know, I know, this too – were it from *any* other company – should prompt nothing more than a slightly glazed look and then a quick glance to see if there’s anything interesting on Twitter. After all, the consumer tech landscape is teeming with HDTVs. The aisles of Best Buy, FutureShop and Walmart are littered with them. A recent study (albeit a highly politicized one) out of the U.S. even suggested that they have become so mainstream that even 17% of people dubbed “poor” now own them.
So why would an Apple HDTV matter?
First of all, according to a CNET report, Apple is already in talks with LG to manufacture 55″ OLED screens. Right there, we have a major technology shift in the works. There are for all intents and purposes, no OLED TVs on the market right now. Plasma and LED-backlit LCD panels represent well over 99% of all HDTVs. The primary reason so far has been price. Even Sony’s OLED experiment, the XEL-1, a diminutive 11-inch kitchen-class device cost a whopping $1,700 when it briefly came to market a few years ago. Needless to say, a 55″ beast would be an order of magnitude more expensive, making it prohibitive for all but wealthiest consumers. But nonetheless, LG themselves have announced plans to build just such a TV next year. It lends a lot of credibility to the Apple HDTV rumour. And OLED will be a game-changer.
But if LG is going to make one, it will probably be cheaper than Apple’s, so why would I buy the one with the fruit on it?
It’s safe to say that Apple’s second generation Apple TV unit, that little black hockey-puck of a device, has been much more successful than most anticipated, especially given the luke-warm response their first generation “hobby” was given. It’s also safe to say that any Apple HDTV will have Apple TV or similar functionality baked right into the unit. As cool as I’m sure this would be, it’s not a big deal. Apple TV’s are cheap (relatively speaking) at $119.
But the feature that I think will really set an Apple HDTV apart, is FaceTime. Yes, it would be the same FaceTime that has been available on iPhone 4s, iPod Touches and Macs for over a year now, but with one key difference: The FaceTime camera will be behind – not on top – of the OLED screen.
This is a feature that I had predicted would make its way into the very first iPad. Man was I wrong on that. The iPad didn’t even get a regular webcam until the second version.
But in my defense, I didn’t know that the iPad would be an LCD-equipped device. And according to the patent I was basing my prediction on, in order for a screen to work with a “hidden camera,” it needs to be OLED – not LCD.
In case you haven’t clicked-through to my iPad prediction yet, allow me to summarize: A hidden FaceTime camera would change the nature of video chat. Instead of watching someone gaze at a point in space that seems to be around your lower-neck, they will be looking right at you. All the time. The TV would become a virtual window allowing eye-to-eye communication. FaceTime is already a great chat product – especially on the iPad 2. A FaceTime camera situated behind the screen where you’re already looking, would be, well, magical.
Yes, it seems a little foolish that having been wrong on this once before I’d be willing to stick my neck out again for the same premise. But I guess that’s a measure of how great I think this feature would be, and why Apple could own the high-end of the HDTV market just like they own the high-end of the smartphone and tablet market.
Check back here in 2012 to see if I’ll be eating my words once more.