Archive for July 4th, 2012

July 4, 2012

The App-ification of TV and the Decline of Channels

John Gruber in Daring Fireball nailed explaining how the iPhone destroyed the cell phone handset industry, not by making a better handset, but by disrupting the mobile computer industry, and in the process making ‘phone’ just an app. It makes you question whether trying to guess how an iTV can disrupt the TV set industry is too simplistic an approach.

Let’s expand the range of disruption for Apple TV:

  • Will some TV experiences, say, the Olympic Games, be revolutionized by app-ification? An alert from a sport that you’re interested could provide a link to see a key point. It could provide a “don’t tell me” option that hides results from an event that you plan to watch later. The network could use the app to take ownership of the relationship with its viewers by providing on-demand viewing of all events, live and recorded, through one app. And offer more efficient ad targeting to its sponsor partners.  Another example: Political conventions could incorporate grass-roots participation, fundraising, and simultaneous meetings or flash mobs to build more momentum for campaigns.
  • Would shows become far more popular if they were tightly integrated with the community they appeal to? Think of programs, like NASCAR racing, where fans can get access to their favorite team and driver as part of a unified Facebook/Twitter/TV environment with its own unique video perspectives and community.

“Channels” as we now know them would become a second-tier delivery mechanism, boring in comparison to really innovative app versions of programs. Something like a book compared to a really great iBook. And these apps could provide far more commercial potential than a TV show, with integrated stores, connection to (and user data from) every viewer, and let them extend their brand into other areas. Consider the apps and content created for Late Night With Jimmy Fallon, and imagine that the LNJF app becomes the best way to view the show live as well as viewing clips. The broadcast version would become a simple, linear version of the full experience, for legacy systems like TVs and DVRs.

Winners and Losers

The value of having the exclusive right to channels would be rivalled by the value of providing the preferred app platform for programs. Consumers will want both channels and apps. Proprietary cable boxes won’t be able to run the apps that the best shows and events offer, so cable and satellite providers will need new app-friendly platforms. Either they try to build their own on Android, or adopt the Apple TV as their set top box and create a stream-able version of their service.

The value of channels themselves will decline when their best content is available in a better form elsewhere

The app platforms will likely be on iOS and Android, which will continue to soar in volume. Windows 8 and Blackberry will be too late. Microsoft has the money to acquire Adobe, which will likely be the vendor of the cross-platform toolset used to produce the apps, and thereby make it possible to support Windows 8. But will they ever recoup the cost premium? Will producers want to support a third platform?

Because they won’t have the app platforms, mobile computing/phone vendors like Blackberry and Nokia will continue to wither away. Dead companies walking.

The production of events and TV shows will evolve as well. Will super-engaging sports experiences become more like going to a game? Well, duh, of course they will. Will apps for sports bars enable them to become extensions of the stadium, even piping the cheers of the patrons into the venue so their voices can be heard? Possibly.

Everything about TV can change when shows become apps.

July 4, 2012

Apple’s Living Room of the Future: Remotes

An Apple patent points to the possible design of Apple’s living room of tomorrow. As more and more peripherals go wireless, and more members of the household get their own potential controllers (like iDevices), the number of pairings that need to be made will explode. Apple has something in mind that will help.

First, the problem: Multiplying Integration Complexity

For example, if you have two Bluetooth DVRs that you’d like to control with either of two iDevices then you need to pair each controller with each device, 2 x 2 = 4 pairings. Add a couple more peripherals over time and occasionally replace the iDevices and you get not only dozens of pairings, you get a headache.

Now the solution: AirPort Remote*

An intermediary device that is paired with the peripherals that are in range, that any iDevice can use to control any of the peripherals. You only need as many intermediaries as physical limits of the protocols require. If any devices require infrared commands, you’ll need an intermediary in the room. In my house, I have four DVRs that could be Bluetooth-controlled, one AirPort Remote could be in range of all four. We have four iDevices as well, so the potential 16 pairings would be reduced to just 4. If the AirPort Remote is networkable then I can manage all of the DVRs from anywhere.

* Made up name

But Trill, you may say, couldn’t you get an app to control them? Yes, I can have apps to control DVRs, and apps to control IR peripherals, and apps to control lights, zillions of apps. But that’s just another kind of ever-multiplying set of things to set up. More headaches!

With AirPort Remote(s), I set up peripheral control once, and every iDevice linked to my iCloud account is able to issue commands. Any app, and Siri too, has a standard way to send commands to any room.

Will Apple produce a separate Apple Remote? This feature may not require a standalone product, so it is more likely to be built into the Apple TV and various AirPort models.