You say “The Apple TV offering requires that you actually have a TV or another device to stream the video to in order to watch it, whereas any device with a screen, such as the iPad, would have been the logical and ideal client for this directly, without it going through the Apple TV.”
Is that right? Apple says that (with AirPlay) “Just tap to start playing content on your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch, then tap again to instantly stream whatever you’re watching — or listening to — directly to Apple TV.” (http://www.apple.com/appletv/#remote)
This detail matters because of the bigger picture. Endless companies have tried to reinvent the TV but only Apple has an installed base of handheld devices with screens. The question for Apple TV is not the scope of the initial content distribution deals but how will they exploit this asset and whether it will make a difference.
With every other company, once the set top box is sorted we have a discussion about the remote: wand, buttons, mouse, magic pad, touch screen, voice, waving or whatever. With Apple, the remote IS the device that matters – the set top box arguably exists purely to mirror what’s in the user’s hand – iPod touch, iPhone or iPad. All these already have access to the internet… so there is no shortage of content. It’s just a commercial decision about how Apple can exploit this.
Apple could limit the resolution of content played outside iTunes but I doubt they’ll bother. They want the critical mass of users. Instead, over time, iTunes’s established billing system and being featured on iTunes suggested playlists (aka TV channels) will be enough of a draw for anyone with video to sell.
Everyone’s talked about making TV smarter. The genius of Apple’s approach is that it keeps TV dumb – it’s just a monitor. The smarts are in your hand.