Apple’s about-face Samsung TV deal shakes streaming world

Last week might well have marked the worst in Apple’s history and the company made a peculiar and rather uncharacteristic response, by revealing that new Samsung smart TVs will soon offer iTunes Movies and TV Shows as well as AirPlay 2 support. In the face of adversity, we have a rare show of Apple breaking out of its proprietary device ecosystem to partner with its old handset nemesis – is this a sign of things to come or is Apple destined to return to old habits?

Now worth something like $300 billion less than it was last week and on the cusp of launching its own long-awaited OTT video service this quarter, Apple has looked to Samsung for help – another tech monolith which has so far failed to crack the streaming business. This is a common theme on the Faultline radar – one of tying two stones together and hoping the finished product floats – although surely the polished Apple video streaming service will be tightly integrated with its device ecosystem.

From spring 2019, a firmware update on select Samsung smart TV sets, including the QLED 4K and 8K TV sets, will bring Apple content into homes in more than 100 countries and allow for casting from Apple devices in 190 countries. Although there could be a clash of interests here, following the announcement last month that Google Assistant is soon to arrive on Samsung smart TVs as an upgrade to its own Bixby assistant, as well as Alexa. It appears there is no room at the inn for Siri.

Apple has been trying to get into the services business for some time now but not nearly as hard and fast as necessary. With iPhone sales sitting flat now for some 18 months and Tim Cook last week issuing the company’s first sales slump warning for 15 years, it now risks launching its hyped up Apple video streaming service to lower than anticipated reactions and into a much more hotly contested market than when it first revealed plans for a Netflix rival.

But importantly, Apple is also embarking on a huge security incentive, renting out an enormous hotel-side billboard at CES this week emblazoned with the words, “What happens on your iPhone, stays on your iPhone” – clearly a provocative jab at Google. To that end, Apple claims that the ad-tracking functionality fitted into Samsung smart TVs will not be able to track viewing behaviors within the iTunes Movies and TV Shows app, according to a statement issued to The Verge.

Samsung has also filed a number of patents looking at “audio scenic intelligence” and “audio spatial intelligence” reportedly geared towards developing sound technology which adapts depending on the environment, such as ambient noise and the size of a room.

Apple’s SVP of Internet Software and Services, Eddy Cue, said, “We look forward to bringing the iTunes and AirPlay 2 experience to even more customers around the world through Samsung Smart TVs, so iPhone, iPad and Mac users have yet another way to enjoy all their favorite content on the biggest screen in their home.”

Going up against such fierce competition, we have always felt the iPhone maker has little choice but to aggressively target its long-rumored streaming service at Apple fanatics first, before marketing it outside the iWorld. That could all be about to change with the Samsung integration, as could the entire Apple ethos as we know it.