One Controversy Could Hurt Apple's TV Debut
Apple is encountering a major obstacle in developing its first television set.
What should it be called?
The obvious assumption is “Apple TV,” but that name has already been used in promoting the company's set-top device that enables users to stream iTunes videos on their existing television sets.
The leading alternative is one that Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) has had its eye on for quite some time: iTV. Following in the footsteps of the iPod, iPhone, and iPad, the iTV name would allow Apple to continue the iDevice legacy, and produce a strong brand for the TV worldwide.
There's just one catch: Apple does not yet own the “iTV” brand. While it could release a TV set in North America under that name without issue, the ITV moniker currently belongs to England's largest commercial broadcaster. According to The Telegraph (via Mac Rumors), ITV has once again warned Apple that it should not use its name when launching any new products.
ITV's concerns started several years ago when Apple contemplated the name of its set-top box. At the time, the iPhone creator wanted to call it iTV. Whether Apple gave in to ITV threats or not, the company ultimately decided to sell the product as Apple TV. Now, thanks to a plethora of rumors that are (perhaps inaccurately) branding Apple's first television as iTV, the aforementioned commercial broadcaster is getting concerned.
But is ITV worried for nothing? Apple historically prefers to provide each of its devices with short and catchy names that can be used all over the world. England may not be Apple's biggest market, but it is certainly a key region. Thus, it seems very unlikely that the company would attempt to apply the iTV moniker in some regions and come up with an entirely different name for the TV when it arrives in England.
Will Apple attempt to use the name without ITV's permission? Probably not. Apple can be a stubborn company, but it's not stupid. Analysts agree that in order for Apple's television to be successful, it must have great content. Apple won't be able to pull that off by shunning key broadcasters.
This, however, could leave a big gap in Apple's strategy. If it can't use the iTV name, how will it brand its new TV? The company could utilize the name of its set-top box and slowly train consumers to associate Apple TV with its television set, not its hockey puck-sized video player. But that may not be the most effective way to brand something that should, by all accounts, be an entirely new product.
Apple could go another route and call it a Mac TV, but that's not likely. While the Mac name is strong, it is not as powerful as the iPhone or iPod brands, nor would it have the same impact that the simplistic Apple TV moniker could have. Further, by calling it Mac TV, people may associate the brand with Macintosh computers and perceive it as an extension of that brand. This could hurt the television, first because people may only see it as a giant computer, and second because it could turn off Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) loyalists who insist on using Windows PCs. Those loyalists do use iPods and iPads, however. They might not admit it, but they definitely use them, and would be potential customers for an Apple-designed TV.
From a branding standpoint, this might make iTV sound like the best option. But does Apple really need to use a familiar name to promote its first television?
The iPod name wasn't successful because people loved the iMac; it was a hit because the device just happened to be the best MP3 player on the market. For many Apple loyalists, the iPod was a gateway drug. It served as the device that sparked a lifelong addiction to Apple products. And when those iPod users finally broke down and bought a Mac, what did they get? They bought a MacBook Air or MacBook Pro, of course, reducing the relevancy of the iMac name.
Thus, it isn't necessary for Apple to refer to its television set as iTV or even Apple TV. Though it wouldn't be wise for the company to use a name as silly as Bravia – the brand Sony (NYSE: SNE) applied to its most recent HDTVs – Apple could probably get away with using almost any title in the world.
And if the TV is good enough, consumers will quickly take notice, creating another success story – and another world-renowned brand – for Apple.
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