Apple’s decision to put iTunes movie and TV rentals on Samsung’s smart TVs is a big change in strategy for the company: instead of creating services to make its own devices like the HomePod and Apple TV more. valuable, the company is allowing access to those services on competing devices. Fundamentally, this all makes sense, as Apple is increasingly focused on service revenue, and has been investing heavily in TV content ahead of launching a long-planned streaming service. Whatever Apple TV service comes to fruition, it will take a lot of scale to be successful, and that means putting apps on platforms other than Apple TV. Of course.
But the devil is in the details, and there are many unanswered questions about this iTunes deal. Here are my top 5:
- Is Apple going to let Samsung’s smart TV tracking stop at iTunes viewers? Smart TVs are known for tracking what people watch, but the whole Apple brand is privacy. What usage data will Samsung see from the iTunes app?
- Samsung’s smart TVs run Tizen, Samsung’s weird custom operating system. Is Apple building an iTunes app for Tizen? Is there a Tizen team within Apple? Or is Samsung creating this app? Who will be responsible for updating it and correcting the errors? Smart TV apps are not known to be updated well or very often.
- Why would any Samsung smart TV owner buy an Apple TV box now? Virtually all other major streaming apps are on the Samsung platform. The Apple TV is already lagging behind in sales compared to much cheaper rivals like the Roku and Amazon Fire TV; It’s not like they’ll sell more when the entire market of Samsung TV owners no longer needs one.
- Apple made a lot of noise in supporting the Dolby Vision HDR standard when it released the Apple TV 4K, with a throwback to the less good HDR10. But Samsung TVs don’t support Dolby Vision – Samsung is pushing HDR10 +, which is not supported by any streaming service other than Amazon at this time. Is Apple remastering its iTunes library in HDR10 +?
- Why didn’t Apple just build a TV that runs their software? It is not so difficult; Roku and Amazon have managed to do it inexpensively and extremely well with their partners. And in an age of flat iPhone sales, a killer new line of hardware would be quite exciting.
- Okay, one bonus question: why the hell is it still called iTunes? Will all these apps be renamed when the TV service starts? Apple’s branding game has been very fuzzy lately.
I suspect that we will soon know the answers to all these questions. We reached out to Apple and Samsung for comment, and sooner or later Apple is shipping a Tizen app that we can only look at and use. But for now, it’s fascinating to see Apple take its services to even more rival platforms.