The average American household (representing 66% of total households) has three televisions, at least one desktop computer and one laptop. What if one of these devices could do double duty as a Hi Def TV AND computer rolled into one? The energy savings (both in manufacturing and stand-by operation) would be significant in reducing the average carbon footprint of a typical home.
That of course is NOT the reason why Steve Jobs rolled out the latest Apple TV gadget today at the big Apple media event in San Francisco. He modestly called Apple TV his "hobby" which belies the fact that Apple could very well change the landscape of television distribution, just as it did the landscape of music distribution back in 2003.
I recall heated discussions amongst media and music pundits back in the day -- "iTunes will never turn a profit... It's just being used to sell iPods.. The music industry won't lose its hold on distribution." etc. They were wrong. By 2008 iTunes had become the #1 music distributor, and as of this year it has sold more than 10 billion songs, making it a massive profit center for Apple.
The key was getting the big music catalogs on board, which Apple eventually succeeded in doing after big music execs realized the seamlessly integrated online music purchasing experience was increasing sales at a time when most media experts were crying about the "death" of the music industry.
Television will follow the same course. I for one, am part of a generation of consumers that have completely forgone the television (along with that telephone thing with the cord). I have a TV in my closet but I can't remember the last time I used it. I pretty much consume all my media on my computer via Hulu or directly on TV wesbites like ABC.com.
The Netflix deal with Roku is exciting, but the promise of being able to download and own my favorite TV shows via iTunes and play them on my monitor without buffering or ads has me ready to whip out the $100 for the hocky-puck sized Apple TV gadget.
Right now it's a small catalog -- FOX and ABC. But remember iTunes started with just 200,000 song titles. My guess is that cool features (like big Flickr slideshows, 99 cent downloads, and WiFi integration with the iPad) along with a growing catalog will make Apple TV a hit and cable TV its first big competitor.