Brightcove CEO & Flash Co-Creator: This Is Apple’s iTV

Brightcove CEO & Flash Co-Creator: This Is Apple’s iTV

It’s December, a traditionally slow news month, and it seems this December is even slower than most, because even organizations as solidly grounded in reality as All Things D are now posting elaborate wishful thinking exercises about what the much rumored Apple HDTV will actually be. This one, however, is more interesting and plausible than some… at least in a few key regards.

Jeremy Allaire, the founder of Brightcove and creator of Flash, has written an intriguing piece on the Apple HDTV, which he believes will be sold in two SKUs: one as an impressive, integrated and upgradeable monitor, the other as a $149 set-top box.

Brightcove CEO & Flash Co-Creator: This Is Apple’s iTV

I’m usually very skeptical of claims that Apple will take a set-top box approach to the Apple HDTV, which I explain in detail here. However, Allaire makes an excellent point that a powerful set-top box might be necessary in order to get momentum going:

A new companion device for TV that starts at $149, attaches to nearly any existing TV, and does not require customers to buy an expensive new monitor. This is crucial for quickly establishing and maintaining platform dominance quickly and even stand-alone could be a $5-10 billion opportunity.

The secret sauce, according to Allaire, is the existing iOS app ecosystem:

Brightcove CEO & Flash Co-Creator: This Is Apple’s iTV

Crucially, the new Apple TV will extend nearly every existing iOS app into being a TV app that brings the power and richness of large display surfaces to consumer computing — a task that nearly every industry titan has attempted and failed. The combination of touch and TV will ignite a new era in dual-screen software application design and development in which it will become hard to believe that Internet software was once based solely on PCs, phones and tablets.

One of the claims that Allaire makes I find most convincing is that the Apple TV won’t have any bizarre or elaborate control methods. No voice control, no motion control. Instead, the iTV would leverage every existing iPad and iPhone out there as a remote control.

Brightcove CEO & Flash Co-Creator: This Is Apple’s iTV

Here’s where Allaire’s argument becomes problematic, though:

With the iPhone, Apple created a simple “phone” application on top of existing telephony carrier infrastructure, improving the consumer’s user experience and creating an additional product sales opportunity for carriers. The company will take a similar approach to existing broadcast cable TV, and in so doing, put one or two major U.S. cable operators in the same privileged position that AT&T enjoyed following the iPhone launch. Around the world, cable TV distributors will battle for national sales and marketing rights for the Apple TV.

This simply isn’t going to happen. Cable companies have watched what happens when other industries sign all of their power away to Apple, and they show absolutely no signs of following the same path. If Apple could get cable providers to duke it out for exclusive rights to the Apple HDTV, why aren’t cable companies chomping at the bit? Why are they, by all reports, being extremely unreceptive to Apple’s attempts to strike a deal?

Cable companies have no interest in becoming a dumb pipe, which is what signing away their rights for an exclusive deal with Apple would entail. It would be an extremely shortsighted move at this point, and there’s plenty of precdent in the iPhone and iPod to show the cable industry what would happen to them if they struck a deal with Apple’s devil.

The rest of the piece is interesting, and well worth a read. There are also a series of beautiful renderings of what Allaire thinks the Apple HDTV will look like. I’m guessing it’s a slow month at Brightcove too.

What do you think of the Brightcove CEO’s theory? How will Apple make the iTV a reality? Let us know in the comments.

  • joewaylo

    It would need to have a CableCARD built in for me to obtain one. Comcast and a few other providers down the road will be encrypting the local channels. That means no QAM boxes. I’m not willing to obtain a set-top box to attach to another set-top box for Comcast’s sake of control.

  • FriarNurgle

    Cable has no place on the future Apple TV IMO. Content will be streamed and available via apps. Big question is will these services be priced to entice the “cut the cord” crowd or will they be a continuation of the status quo price gouging cable company business model.

  • technochick

    1. I can’t take anyone serious who says iTV. It shows a lack of knowledge of the state of things including that said term is an in use trademark in the television market owned by a company that has preemptively said if Apple tries to use it they will sue and not back down

    2. Apple has set up their stores to be an alternative to home video and cable, they aren’t likely to stop now. The only thing close they might do is out more of the media apps in the Apple TV base UI with a preference for those that don’t require a cable subscription, but they aren’t likely to turn the ATV box into a cable box etc

  • stefn

    Jeremy Allaire’s points are all right on and good thinking. Here’s my hesitation: With the iPod and iPhone, a firehose of appealing content was necessary. And not just appealing, but cheap. And not just cheap but literally and specifically a buck.

    I think this argument can be made: No buck a tune, no iPod. With the iPhone, Apple tripped but caught on quickly that “computers for the rest of us” are not sufficient. Apple needed the help of thousands of developers to succeed with the iPhone (much better, thinks Apple, than the help of one powerful partner like Adobe, as in the days of yore). No buck an app, no iPhone.

    The same holds for the Apple TV and I hope Apple does not presume it’s all about its shiny sassy gadgets, perhaps with this difference: I own tunes and apps (mostly: I cannot sell them), but I’d settle for streamed access to shows and films and perhaps to time-limited access. After all, we aren’t yet at the moment where tons of great shows can be produced cheaply by very creative persons sitting at computers or pianos. Shows are not yet a cottage industry. Neverthe less it’s all about the buck: So no buck a show, no iMax.

About the author

John BrownleeJohn Brownlee is a Contributing Editor. He has also written for Wired, Playboy, Boing Boing, Popular Mechanics, VentureBeat, and Gizmodo. He lives in Boston with his wife and two parakeets. You can follow him here on Twitter.

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