- Media and consumers are speculating that Apple will reveal a touchscreen TV
- Expert says touchscreen would be an unnatural way to interact with television
- A touchscreen TV would also entail lots of fingerprints and smudges
In the emailed invitation for its March 7 press event, Apple included an image that's provoked intense speculation.
Some observers suggest the hardware in the image doesn't relate to an iPad at all, but rather a touchscreen television.
In decoding the image above — which features hardware lacking the iPad's tell-tale home button — IBTimes concluded that instead of an iPad, "Apple could instead reveal Apple TV" and that "this would explain the lack of a home button a lot better."
Mashable also noted in a slideshow that we may be seeing a TV set at Wednesday's event, based on evidence from the invitation image. In this case, the word "see" in the image caption text is a big indicator.
And how's this for reaching: Some Apple fans on AppleInsider's forums think the proportion of touchscreen icon to finger suggests a TV-size display rather than an iPad-size display.
It's all provocative what-ifing, but let's get one thing straight: A touchscreen-based Apple television set will not be revealed on March 7.
"I seriously doubt Apple would launch a touchscreen TV," DisplaySearch analyst Paul Gagnon told Wired via email. "The primary reason is that it is an unnatural, and unnecessary, way to interact with the TV since consumers view TV at a distance."
IHS principal analyst Randy Lawson seconds this sentiment: "In the typical usage model for a TV, you're not sitting close enough to touch it."
Remember before TVs had remote controls? You had to actually get up off of the couch and twist the "dial" on the TV set. (For those born in the '90s or later, this may come as an astonishing fact, but we'll clue you in: It was a pain.) So why would you want to get up off of the couch to touch your TV screen to change channels, especially if you've got a remote sitting next to you?
Gagnon says the scenarios in which a consumer would touch-control a TV are limited: Think educational settings, or perhaps if you're manipulating a map onscreen. Lawson adds that touch-controlled TVs could be useful in conference room scenarios, but don't really have a place in one's home.
"For consumer TVs going into the living room, there's less need for a touchscreen rather than voice recognition or gesture recognition," Lawson told Wired. "Interactivity that doesn't involve touching the screen."
It's also worth noting that TV-sized touchscreen displays don't have ergonomics in their favor: They put one's wrists at a fairly extreme angle thanks to their vertical orientation.
Steve Jobs made this point in Apple's October 2010 Mac event: "Touch surfaces don't want to be vertical. It gives great demo, but after a short period of time, you start to fatigue and after an extended period of time, your arm wants to fall off. It doesn't work, it's ergonomically terrible. Touch surfaces want to be horizontal, hence pads."
And, of course, a touchscreen TV would entail lots of fingerprints and smudges. That's not too bad for an iPad or iPhone, which you can very easily wipe-off if you want to stream a movie. But on a large television display, constant cleaning would be a consumer deal-breaker.
Based on rumors and what's currently going on in the supply chain, both Lawson and Gagnon say Apple isn't ready to ship an Apple television either this quarter or next. Gagnon slates it for "very late this year at best" and Lawson says he and other display analysts haven't heard anything in terms of orders being placed at this point.
"If there is any news about Apple TV related news, I think it would be an update to the current Apple TV set-top box, which has been disappearing from store shelves in recent weeks," Gagnon said.
Indeed, Apple TVs are increasingly being reported as out of stock, with availability expected for March 7. And you know what day that is.