Apple's foray into television, a set-top box with iOS, is now rumored to be called iTV, and it may have benefits for business owners. While many have already labeled set-tops as strictly for recreational video or gaming, their potential business uses seem to be ignored.
Here are a few reasons why Apple iTV could help your business.
1. Apple FaceTime
While the iTV is still in prototype phase, many believe that it's likely to have Apple's video chat program, FaceTime, which is set to be shipped on tens of millions of devices. While some say that the only business this will improve is porn, an easy video chat program can make videoconferencing a breeze.
If you find that hard to swallow, realize that LG and Panasonic already partnered with Skype to bring video chat to their HDTVs. Also, Skype plans to make most of its money providing small- and medium-sized businesses with video chat, and could easily cancel its free programs altogether.
2. The App Store
Apple is likely going to include iTV applications in its App Store, and since it uses iOS and an A4 processor, it could have many of the same applications provided to the iTouch or iPhone, a bonus for a company trying to increase productivity by working within a uniform operating system. But if a company decides to use another operating system, Apple's innovations can still be harnessed on iTV without any other Apple devices.
3. The $99 Price Tag
At $99, the iTV is a good buy even if your business plans only to videoconference or stream live video a few times. Chances are most people will use it much more than that (even if it's for late-night video games for "team-building" exercises), but at such a reasonable price, it's worth testing. So far there's been no price leak on the Google TV, an Android OS option, rumored to be dropping late this year.
4. HDTV with Internet Capability is Now a Must
Any new TV purchase is likely to be high-definition already, so a company will have to choose between a model that comes Internet-ready (about $1100 to $2700) or an HDTV (a decent 40- to 50-inch model averages around $500 to $600) and buying a standalone option, such as the iTV, Roku, TiVo, some Blu-Ray players, Nintendo Wii, Boxee, or Popbox to download or stream video. All of the above-mentioned devices have their pluses and minuses, and they retail starting at $100 for the Roku HD.
5. Create an Online Video Library
While Apple iTV's 16GB of internal storage is nice, its access to online storage means that companies can digitize dozens of training videos, commercial videos, or consumer content and always know where they are. Not only does it get rid of dusty videotapes, scratched DVDs, and the time spent trying to find them (and the need for server storage), but can also give companies more incentive to film shorts for vendors or to welcome visitors to their office lobby.
One of the downsides of the iTV is that it only has a 720p HD output, when many devices are already using 1080p, due to A4 processor limitations. Another drawback is that all this information is still relatively tentative and could change at any time--although I hope Apple doesn't rethink the price.
The iTV offers several options for both businesses and consumers, but for those who want iOS applications, a good price, online storage and a little Apple cachet, it may be the machine to beat.
Barbara E. Hernandez can be reached or followed on Twitter at @bhern.