The Apple TV

Everyone and their brother is talking about Apple’s proposed “Apple TV”, in a true TV-set fashion. I was in the kitchen the other day and as I was chopping an onion, it occurred to me what they could do to make a really great TV. I often think about technology whilst chopping onions.

First, Siri on an Apple TV is possible, maybe likely, but it’s not going to be the only interface. It can’t be. As Neven Mrgan pointed out, how would you flip to a new channel if Siri goes down? What about gaming? You can’t game with your voice — “QUICK! RUN AWAY, ME!”

So here’s what I imagine:

  • It’ll be pricey, as with any Apple device, but it’ll be competitive on the high-end. Probably about $1,499 if I had to make my guess.
  • It’ll use the traditional Apple Remote. I think they, and everyone else, really likes that. It may get modified or become smarter to do things like increasing the volume, but;
  • The real remote comes on your iPhone or iPad. You can use it without, sure, but the magic happens on those devices. Now many have pointed out that you can’t easily control one screen by looking at another. Hand someone an iPad and the first thing they do is look at the iPad screen and not the TV. The current Apple Remote App is fine, but it requires a sort of disjointed brain behavior that’s hard to wrap your mind around. BUT, Apple doesn’t have to do that anymore. They introduced iPad mirroring, didn’t they? You just display whatever’s on the TV on to your iPad. When you’re done, you just put the iPad down and enjoy your show.
  • I don’t think Apple’s TV will play nice with the cable providers. It’ll use the Internet-only, which is terrifying, since that’s still the cable company (if that’s not a monopoly, it’s about to be…I bet Apple can and will fight tooth and nail on that front if it comes to pass that Comcast starts throttling data or selectively blocking channels.).
  • Since it’ll be Internet-only, I imagine a device that lets me pick shows completely on-demand, a la carte. Want Mad Men? That’ll be 99 cents for an episode or you can buy a season-pass for $9.99. In addition, Apple will no doubt become a subscription handler, allowing you to pay $19.99 a month or about $240 a year on an “all you can watch” model, like Netflix, so you can get TV and some movies. Movies not part of the subscription plan can still be rented for $1.99 or .99 cents. They may well do away with the TV episode subscriptions all together in favor of this.
  • I have to assume the folks at Apple see Netflix floundering wildly. I have to suspect Eddie Cue wants to eat them for breakfast, so I wouldn’t be surprised if they terminate their Netflix deals and go straight into their own business of selling those monthly subscriptions for access. Or, more likely, a yearly subscription so you can pay it once and forget it. Seems less like “a bill” when you do that. They’ve done that with MobileMe and now iTunes Match, so that would be consistent.
  • Sports packages have to get thrown in if Apple can pull it off, otherwise it’s not useful for a lot of people.
  • I bet HBO, Cinemax, Showtime, etc. can’t wait. This fits with the model they’ve been touting for years.

Apple’s devices are all about content, so there’s no reason why we have to keep falling all over ourselves trying to figure out what amazing new input method they’re going to think up. I bet it’s mostly remote control, with a little voice-control if you want to use it, just like your iPhone.

It’ll be a really pretty device, maybe with a few neat things like built-in WiFi and Bluetooth (for iPhone controllers for games?) and iCloud access. But the really good parts come from easy software and access to all the best content.

The Appler TV

Everyone’s got an idea on whether Apple will make a TV or not. John Gruber says no, Marco Arment says no, Chris Dixon says yes, Neven Mrgan says maybe.

If you think everything is converging, Apple’s Cinema Display line is approaching and exceeding small television sets. So I can see how Apple might have the factories available to manufacture a true Apple TV.

Most pundits look at whether or not Apple thinks there’s a market or a some other economic reason for building a product. I don’t think that’s true. If Apple cared about the market, Safari would be going toe-to-toe with Chrome on features and functionality. If Apple cared about the market, they’d be much more aggressive trying to get Macs on everyone’s desks instead of PCs. If Apple cared about the market, they would have set a much higher goal for the iPhone than just 1%.

I’m sure whether a market exists or not factors into their decisions on products, sure, but they don’t start there and build a product. They start by identifying what sucks and then identifying the market potential.

Apple thought IBM computers sucked, so they built the Mac. Apple thought Internet Explorer sucked, so they built Safari. Apple thought notebooks sucked so they built the iBook. Apple thought keyboard and mouses sucked, so they made their own (hold your “the mouse still sucked” jokes for later). Apple thought routers sucked so they built Airport. This can go on and on with iPods, software like iMovie and iPhoto and more.

There’s one product that I think Apple will base their approach on: The Apple Hi-Fi. Remember that thing? Apple thought stereos sucked so they built one to use an iPod instead of a radio, CD or cassette. There were plenty of third-party stereos with iPod docks on the market, but Apple evidently thought they sucked. I can imagine Steve Jobs wanted to listen to his music in a room and he probably cringed at having to stick his beautifully crafted iPod into an alarm clock/AM, FM radio/CD player/white noise machine/flashlight thing.

I think the TV is the same. Apple’s curated this wonderful content into iTunes and they wanted a beautiful way of sharing it with a person’s living room TV and rather than build their own glass box, they went with the comparatively ugly TV screens that abound and made what is now the Apple TV. They learned their lesson from the Apple Hi-Fi and I don’t see them making the same mistake over again with TVs. People sometimes have more than one stereo in the house and they don’t upgrade it every year. The same goes for TVs.

Steve Jobs has said the Mac is the center of your media universe. That’s not likely to change despite most people claiming the TV is the center of their media universe. Apple’s where they want to be: your Mac is the center of the universe and you control everything in iTunes from there. Apple TV, iPads, iPods and iPhones are arms of that. They just happen to be able to access the same content.

While I don’t doubt that Steve probably cringes every time people fire up iTunes in their Apple TV on their boxy Sony Trinitron, Apple’s created the ecosystem they’ve said they wanted. I suspect they’ll stay there and focus their attention someplace else. Personally, I hope to see them put some pressure on cable companies by getting everyone to think differently about the content they watch and purchase.

Women Have Vaginas. Deal With It.

Now that I have the attention of every straight male among my Twitter and Facebook following…

Say you make tampons and want to advertise on TV. Good luck, if you’re advertising in the U.S. Because of America’s fear of the female anatomy, hoo-ha’s and “it”, TV networks ban most euphanisms like “down there”, too.

For years, advertising for tampons and “sanitary products” have been shrouded in nebulous euphemism. So what happens when a US tampon-maker drops the coy messaging and goes straight for the jugular (so to speak)? Its ad gets banned by the major US television networks for mentioning the word “vagina”.

Even when the company substituted “down there” for vagina, two of the networks still wouldn’t run the ad, so the company was forced to drop the idea altogether. That provoked Amanda Hess, author of The Sexist blog, to observe: “Now, the commercial contains no direct references to female genitalia – you know, the place where the fucking tampon goes.”

Dear Comcast…

I recently received a letter in the mail from Comcast, now known as Xfucutity, or something like that. The letter went something like this:

“Dear Comcast Customer, our records indicate that you do not currently have a digital cable TV box in your home. We are informing you that after March 16, we will be discontinuing our service of our basic digital cable package and homes will now be required to use a digital cable TV box.”

This makes me mad because I hate boxes and remotes. I loathe the fact that they actually call their piece of shit box “a cable TV box”. Seriously?

Because I’m a sentient human being with a desire to eat and live in shelter, I decided nearly 5 years ago that I would not be fleeced by Insight, (now Comcast) in Noblesville because I thought, “what if I move?” Sure enough, I moved. I moved to Fishers, where I still had Insight, but I thought, “what if I move?” Sure enough, I moved. All the while, thinking it silly to pay money for a box I’m likely not going to need for long. So, years ago I went to BestBuy and bought a $400 cable tuner and DVR combo – sorta like a Tivo, but with no subscription fees because I hate monthly fees. With a passion.

I figured that Comcast would charge me $156 a year to “rent” their digital TV box. After 2.5 years, I’d be saving money. Sure enough, I’ve saved $390 over the last 2.5 years because I don’t rent a “box”.

Now, Comcast is forcing me to rent the box. Or, they’ll give me one for free if I want to take their basic local channel package with the locals instead of the basic package I have now which has the standard cable lineup.

But, I don’t want the extra boxes because I don’t want more things to plug in, more things to look at and more remotes laying around. I want 1 remote called “the TV remote”. To watch TV Land should not require the startup of cathode rays, descramblers, LCDs, infrared and radiators. I want to watch Andy Griffith in my living room, not on the Starship Enterprise. Plus, Andy Griffith is 40 freaking years old. People used to watch it with a metal stick in the ground and a screen with two knobs. Somehow, we’ve lost our way.

Do not be surprised if I drop them entirely and stick with just the Internet, which I can still plug into the wall like God intended. And, Andy Griffith streams beautifully from a multitude of sites.

Why Does America Have These Discussions?

I’m just blown away this evening. First, this guy:

A 72-year old man spent so much time on hold with a state unemployment agency trying to claim his benefits that he racked up a $700 cell phone bill, reports Jeremy Joyola of Eyewitness News 4 in Albuquerque.

OK, first of all we’re not getting the whole story because he probably called a thousand times listening to the recording over and over and over again at 12 noon on a Monday. I know people that do that because they’re evidently incapable of following directions or are afraid to “press 1 for English”. Plus, who makes a phone call on a cell phone and says, “Well, I guess I’d better keep using this.” Do we not know what a “minute” plan equates to?

Next up, this gem:

[A]s many as one and a half million people living in rural areas might not be able to get broadcast television channels as part of their satellite television service because the impasse has blocked the extension of the law allowing satellite companies to carry those signals.

Solution: read a frackin’ book. Then you’ll learn that you shouldn’t stick with a satellite TV carrier that is, evidently, incapable of giving you local service so you can know when the weatherman is wrong. That, or don’t expect to get much of any service when you live in the middle of the inside of a mountain.

When I lived in Salem we never expected cable TV, water and sewage lines or hell, phone service that worked – cellular or wired. Why? Because we lived in the middle of nowhere. If you want to be somebody with something, go live somewhere. That’s what I did and now I get to blog more.