I agree with that. Beyond service integration (which is not a big ask) it's the user experience that will dictate whether a WebTV product is a success or not. I also think voice-control and intelligent indexing and search of multimedia is what will make Apple iTV stand out.
I've been very unimpressed with so-called "connected TVs," and yet most of my TV watching these days is streaming online. That's because I connected a PC to my audio/TV setup, and I do my channel surfing by moving a remote mouse on the couch next to me.
No limitations to what web content I can watch.
The problem with an Apple, or a Google, or any other single entity, trying to horn in on all the action is, the content owners can tell them to go pound sand, any time they please. If not immediately, perhaps next year?
The way I'm set up, with a PC that looks like any other to the content owners, any number of clever software designers can create easy to use software for TV watching. And the content owners would have no reasonable way of singling out any one system.
Besides which, sites like Hulu and Netflix, not to mention the networks' own sites, can ALSO make it easier for TV viewers. They can provide individual login. keep track of what episodes you already saw, suggest other showm etc. Which SHOULD be a warning that they may not take kindly to any one company trying to monopolize the field?
Since first hearing this rumor, I've been wondering just what Apple would do to make a better connected TV, and make it something that people really want to buy. The TV market already has a lot of connected TV's, but what is still lacking is something that makes them compelling for the average consumer.
I think you've hit on most of it. The UI and easy access to content will be the two main areas where Apple can add value.
One of the keys to consumer acceptance though will be intelligent integration of content sources and pricing models that aren't entirely for Apple's benefit at the consumer's expense.
To use your example about watching the latest episode of Modern Family, the TV should be smart enough to know that you're a cable subscriber and this episode is available for free on VOD...and then just queue it up for you. If you tell Siri that you've missed the last 5 episodes, it should know that only the last 3 are still on VOD, and then direct you to the iTunes store where you can rent the older 2 episodes.
In other words, if every content request is just a redirect to the iTunes store, even when "free" (or already paid for) sources are accessible, I don't think consumers will jump for joy.
An Apple TV will allow the owner to pick and choose the channel lineup instead of being stuck with 200+ channels where you only watch 10-15.
It will connect to the App store for access to Games, TV shows, Movies, Music, Family Photos and videos from iCloud,
Facetime video conferencing with friends and family!!
And it will do it all with a remote with 5 buttons instead of the monster remotes we have now.
Siri support so I can say, "Watch the latest episode of Modern Family". No more paging through a guide list to try to find something to watch.
Neither videos streaming nor web browsing is a new feature. A breakthrough has to be more than repackaging the already existed features. Ease of use and rich content seem to be some of the keys to the success of webTV.
How good the web TV can be success depends very much on the quality and accessibility of the content. I believe Apple can come up with a new business model that not only make money from selling hardware, upgrades and purchasing content. Of course, I'm not sure if this kind of TV can be popular outside USA. At least in Asia, I don't see great success with the WebTV sold by the other big names. The carrier is usually the biggest hurdle.
I truly believe that Apple has the ingenuity and capability to bring out a revolutionary Web TV product.
One of the differentiating features of web TV could be that it could interactive and that along with reality shows suited to use that interactive feature effectively will boost the popularity of web TV