At CES 2019, we've discovered that Smart TVs in 2019 will be a lot more friendly to the Apple faithful, which looks like the start of a new era for Tim Cook's company. Apple's Airplay 2, the wireless media sharing tool for casting video, images and sound, has gotten support in a growing collection of TVs from major manufacturers.
Update 1/7/2019: The day isn't out and we've already gotten new announcements of Airplay and HomeKit compatibility from another major smart TV maker, with Sony's latest product announcements.
Apple's Airplay 2 is the preferred option for sharing content from an iPhone or iPad with other devices. Apple makes it easy to share everything from family photos to streaming video from HBO and other services. But until now, TV users had to share content through Apple TV, a dedicated streaming box from Apple.
With today's announcements, it's clear that Airplay will be showing up in more places, starting with smart TVs. We've seen announcements from Samsung, LG and Vizio, and we wouldn't be surprised to see similar news from other manufacturers this week.
Editor's Note (1/7/19): Sony has announced that its Bravia and Master Series smart TVs will also be getting Airplay 2 and HomeKit support. Sony Z9G Series, A9G Series, X950G Series TVs will all have the capability, and are set to launch later this year.
LG is supporting both Airplay and Apple HomeKit, with the new capabilities built into all of the WebOS smart TVs coming in 2019.
In a press release announcing the new Apple support, LG said "With AirPlay 2, users can easily play videos directly from their Apple devices, iTunes and other video apps, music or photos to their LG SIGNATURE OLED TV R. With Apple HomeKit support, customers will be able to control their LG TV using the Home app or by asking Siri."
Vizio is also getting Airplay and HomeKit support when it updates Vizio SmartCast TVs in the second quarter of this year. Coming with SmartCast 3.0, the capability will come to 2019 and 2018 models for free via over the air update.
Samsung announced similar Airplay compatibility last night, but wasn't the only Apple-related addition to Samsung's smart TVs. Samsung also announced that iTunes would be coming to its 2019 smart TVs.
What This Means For Apple and its TV Services
No offense to those who use iTunes and AirPlay for their media, but the arrival of these services and apps on Smart TVs isn't about Apple's legacy media library app at all. It looks much more like Apple's next step in becoming more of a media company.
Not only could iTunes allow you to stream shows on your TV, but AirPlay will allow people to cast content from their iPhones onto those TVs that don't get iTunes (if that continues to be exclusive to Samsung).
Up until this week, it seemed as if Apple's upcoming original programming would be locked into its devices, such as the Apple TV. Previous reports cited plans to give away content to device owners, which would be distributed on a new streaming service launching in the first half of 2019.
The decision to allow Apple's media technologies to live outside of its own walled garden isn't happening in a vacuum, though. This comes on the heels of Apple Music landing on Alexa devices, a sign that Apple's ambitions of being a service company are larger than its product sales can support.
And how could they? Find another major streaming service that's locked into hardware. Amazon allows Prime Video shows to stream everywhere from its Fire sticks to the Roku and Smart TVs of the world.
The biggest players in the streaming media worlds, such as Hulu and Spotify, thrive thanks to their ubiquity. That in 2019, tech devices need to be friendly, a lesson that we all saw in its HomePod, which flopped in part because it demanded you live in the universe that Apple's Jony Ive has designed.
Yes, even though Apple's been content to serve a small portion of the pie for its entire existence, it's time to rethink what Tim Cook's selling. This isn't just Apple admitting that its streaming service can't survive without those who refuse to pay for its increasingly pricey hardware.
iTunes and AirPlay hitting Smart TVs is a baby step in expanding Apple's audience. With apps on our TVs, Apple gets an easy way to launch its new shows in all kinds of households. not just those who can afford its pricey phones and speaker.
Apple's latest iPhone sales numbers practically beg the company to find more affordable entry points for consumers. If Apple can hit a home run with a must-see TV show, it can pave a more stable future.