Speaking to NBC talking head Brian Williams this week, Apple CEO Tim Cook said: “When I go into my living room and turn on the TV, I feel like I have gone backwards in time by 20 to 30 years.”
Cook went on to upgrade Apple’s efforts in television from a “hobby” to “an area of intense interest.”
These cryptic comments support what Steve Jobs’s biographer, Walter Isaacson, told an interviewer, which is that Jobs said off the record that he wanted to “reinvent” TV, that Apple had “licked” the problems associated with said reinvention, and that Apple’s solution would liberate TV viewers once and for all from “all these complicated remote controls.”
If you want to tease predictive meaning out of these two Apple CEO statements, the key is in what each of them said and to whom and why.
Apple’s current “hobby” — also known as Apple TV — doesn’t tell us much about Apple’s future plans for the living room.
It’s a good product under the right circumstances. But five years from now, living rooms are going to be transformed by all-encompassing systems that turn TVs into video phones, gaming systems, home automation control centers and artificial intelligence assistants.
Does Apple have what it takes to compete in the living room?
Microsoft, Nintendo, Sony, Google and all the big-screen TV makers want to own the the all-purpose living room entertainment system of tomorrow.
Smart TV systems, which will incorporate movies-on-demand, gaming, web surfing, videoconferencing, home automation and more (even TV shows!) are likely to become the next big opportunity for content-driven platform companies.
But is time running out for Apple to make its move?
The surprising answer is: No, not really. Apple’s got plenty of time. And there’s no need for Apple to make a TV set, either.
Apple quietly released an app called Podcasts this week. The app enables the discovery, organization and playing of podcasts on an iPhone.
In the past, users listened to podcasts in the Music app by default. The next version of iOS will apparently come with a Music app that doesn’t support podcasts.
Podcasts are currently monetized using the advertising model. Nearly all podcasts are free, but those podcasts that make money do so through advertising.
Here’s a typical podcast app spoken during the show: “This podcast is brought to you buy Audible.com! For a free audio book of your choice, including audio books by David Sedaris, Sarah Vowell, John Hodgeman, go to Audible.com/american.”)
Under the current system, a podcast content creator can make money from ads, but Apple gets nothing, even when it’s downloaded via the iTunes store.
Providing a platform for other companies to make money while Apple makes nothing really isn’t Apple’s thing.
Apple’s new Podcasts app contains two surprising but telling features.
First, Podcasts contains a skip-forward-30-seconds button. The most obvious use for this button is to skip advertising in podcasts, even the kind spoken by the host of the show. (“This podcast brought to you by [skip forward 30 seconds].”)
Face it. Your Apple TV is boring. It looks just like every other Apple TV, everywhere in the world. Sure, you might say it doesn’t matter, that the whole point of the little puck is to get out of the way and let you watch TV shows and movies, but that shows a lack of imagination. What you need, my friend, is a set of decals. And not just any old decals. You need decals that make your Apple TV look like a NES console.
Speculating about future Apple products is really hard to do well. That doesn’t keep everyone from trying. Even grizzled Apple-watching veterans often fail catastrophically with each new Apple announcement.
The reason it’s difficult is that “evidence,” which would normally be the best tool for predicting things, doesn’t work in Apple’s case.
The best criteria are strategic and cultural analyses. But even these are not perfectly reliable.
If you’ve struggled to accurately guess in the past what Apple will announce, don’t feel bad. Even Apple executives themselves don’t know until often very late in the game.
At last, here’s the Apple TV everyone is waiting for. Well, kinda. Bang & Olufsen’s new V1 is a 32 or 40-inch 1080p TV with a hole in the back where you can hide your little puck-sized Apple TV. This, combined with a remote that can be used to control Apple’s set-top box, means that the V1 is the closest you’ll get to an actual HDTV from Apple.
Each Aereo customer is assigned their own tiny antenna
Aereo is a great service for denizens of New York City. For $12 per month, you get to stream local live TV direct to your iPad, iPhone, Roku box, Apple TV, or just about anything with an internet connection. It’s simple, it does nothing but relay the free-to-air channels already available to any New Yorker, and of course the TV companies are already trying to shut it down.
The video above is probably enough to make iPad 3 owners rush out and buy a copy of AirServer for your big-screen Mac. It shows the difference in the speed of video mirroring natively to the the Apple TV 3 and mirroring to the Mac using AirServer. The first is dreadfully laggy. The second is like playing with a wired controller. But that’s not all: The newest version of AirServer processes the video before displaying it, making for much better results on the big screen.
Stream any audio from your Mac to your AirPlay speakers, not just iTunes
Porthole is a Mac app which will stream all the audio coming from your computer to AirPlay speakers, instead of just the music from iTunes. It’s kind of like Rogue Amoeba’s excellent AirFoil, only much less fine-grained in terms of control.