Hey Siri, has hell frozen over?
Apple and Samsung have reconciled. The two former rivals have announced that an iTunes Movies and TV Shows app will be available on Samsung Smart TVs ahead of this week’s CES. According to Samsung, the app will be available on 2019 Smart TVs in the spring, as well as via a firmware update on 2018 models.
This is the kind of news that makes hell freeze over. Apple has notoriously restricted access to iTunes movies and TV shows, limiting authorizations to five computers and ten total devices. It has never previously permitted third-party home entertainment devices to stream movies or shows directly through iTunes. However, with this collaboration, Apple allows iTunes purchases and rentals to be made and viewed on a Samsung product with virtually no restrictions.
In addition to the partnership with Amazon to allow Apple Music streaming, allowing iTunes streaming on Samsung TVs is a clear indication that Apple will aggressively develop its Services business, possibly to compensate for lagging iPhone sales. With a spring 2019 release date, Apple’s video streaming service could debut at WWDC this year.
The pigs are flying
One thing to keep in mind is that Apple and Samsung’s public feud obscured a deep background relationship. Until now, Apple has avoided Samsung’s consumer division. Apple, on the other hand, has long sourced iPhone components from Samsung’s chip and display businesses.
The app will represent an extraordinary loosening of Apple’s chains, according to the release, which includes a quote from Apple SVP Eddie Cue. Previously, the only way to watch iTunes movies on a non-Apple device was to use iTunes on a PC or to sync with Movies Anywhere. Streaming to a TV without an Apple TV box necessitated elaborate workarounds. With the new app, you’ll be able to watch movies and TV shows directly on a Samsung TV without the need for an Apple TV or any other Apple hardware.
In addition to the app, Samsung TVs will support Airplay 2 for Apple device streaming. The iTunes app will also support “Universal Guide, the New Bixby, and Search, to create a consistent experience across Samsung’s platform,” so you’ll be able to access your Apple content using Samsung’s AI assistant. Put a flushed emoji here.
There is one caveat to the announcement. While Samsung claims that it will support 4K content streamed via the iTunes app, there is no mention of image quality beyond that. iTunes, in particular, supports Dolby Vision, which Samsung TVs do not. It’s unlikely that Apple will encode iTunes video in Samsung’s semi-proprietary HDR10+ format (which no video service currently supports), so streams may not be as crisp as they could be.
Nonetheless, the partnership, which will be exclusive at launch, clearly represents a shift in Apple’s strategy. With a Netflix-style video service on the horizon, the new app is likely to be the start of a major expansion of the iTunes ecosystem, with Fire TV and Roku apps likely to follow. Apple Music was made available to Amazon Echo devices late last year to broaden the service’s reach beyond phones and the HomePod.