Apple and Google will Usher in the Post-TV Era and Crush Traditional Providers

The TV industry is evolving rapidly. Broadband, HDTV and tablets have changed how and where we can watch TV. There is disruption galore with Dish Network's Hopper, Aereo and the big money players creating their own content, such as House of Cards on Netflix.

Historically, cable/satellite companies and content providers have greatly annoyed viewers. In this modern age, the networks, stuck in broadcast mode and technology, have still not developed the means to properly target ads. Cable and satellite companies continue to, obnoxiously, raise rates. Customers, with so many other options available, aren't happy with that, and the contrast between, say, commercial-free Netflix viewing and network TV is now intolerable. In the Post-TV era, the barbarians are at the gate, so to speak, seeking to isolate content from traditional delivery means, and no one is thinking cable and satellite providers have the money and the vision to effectively compete.

The evolving technology has invited customers to roll their own experience. Recognizing that trend, high technology companies with plenty of cash are making their moves. As the Vancouver Sun wrote this week, "Traditional networks ‘deathly afraid’ of Web-based pay TV." The authors wrote: "Armed with billions in cash and promising advanced features, Intel Corp. [maybe], Google Inc., Apple Inc. and Sony Corp. are gunning to take on cable, phone and satellite companies by offering pay TV via the web."

The situation appears to be moving towards the model many had hoped for: a la carte viewing. That's where, unbound from appointment TV, even delayed viewing on a DVR, customers pick and chose the Internet delivered shows they want to watch and pay for them individually, sans commercials. And if the traditional content providers can't deliver what people want to pay for, there is an emerging tendency to create independent, original content. One example is the fabulously successful House of Cards developed by Netflix.

A byproduct of this new Post-TV era is linkage between the set-top hardware and the content. Should one go with Roku? Apple TV? Chromecast? Or a Smart TV from Panasonic or Sony? This fragmentation, as each major tech company seeks to lock customers into its own hardware, will result in keen competition to deliver the best user experience. That can only be a good thing -- as Google knows from its previous Google TV dismal failure. The company appears to have learned greatly from that experience, evidenced by the launch of Chromecast. (However, see below in the tech news.)

In addition, as we move away from traditional TV, with new hardware, new user experiences, and boatloads of ad-free content, the incentive to invest in cable or satellite for specific shows will be reduced. Why subscribe to cable just to get ABC's Castle every Monday night when you know that, soon, every episode will show up on iTunes, Netflix or Amazon prime? The networks promote nervous excitement, but they've come to the end of that rope. The new technologies promote a calm, selective, quality-driven frame of mind. Pick your favorite technology company in the race and let the content sort itself out.

The Post-TV era is still very liquid. It may never sort out into any kind of coherent environment, but one things is sure. The companies that can deliver the best content and the best viewing experience will be winners. Opportunities abound. How Apple and others will apply a unique vision and value to the TV marketplace will be fascinating to watch.


Tech News Debris for the Week of Jul 29

Over at TekRevue, Jim Tanous has done a great job of comparing four new 802.11ac routers. Included in the benchmarks are: Apple’s 2013 802.11ac AirPort Extreme, the Netgear R6300 (a.k.a. AC1750), the Linksys EA6500, and the Belkin AC1200. An important bug in Apple's Mountain Lion that limits file transfers on the 5 GHz band is discussed.

Business Insider has published a nice collection: "9 Weird, Hidden Design Quirks That Show Apple's Insane Attention To Detail." My favorite is the one that describes how OS X lowers the fan speed when it detects that the user is engaged in voice dictation. All these nifty features really do support the title's thesis.

Ross Rubin at TUAW has written an undramatic but interesting summary of Apple's cloud efforts and an attempt at a comeback that will re-earn our trust. It's especially sobering that Apple has done this with iCloud Keychain at a time when it appears that the U.S. government has the power to look at anything it wishes.

In the course of doing a little research on USB 3.0, 3.1 and Thunderbolt, I ran across this gem. It's not something that came out recently, but it does deserve a mention here in Particle Debris. "List of device bit rates." It's just an awesome resource.

At The Street, Rocco Pendola, who has been added to my A-list of writers, has some sharp comments to make about music sales as well as Amazon's business strategy. It covers a lot of ground, and doesn't try to tie everything into a tidy bow, but there are morsels of goodness there. "Downloads Die, Apple Lives, Music Industry Suffers."

Here's an interesting graphical analysis of Android fragmentation by Matt Asay -- who writes good stuff. "Android Fragmentation: Getting Worse All The Time."

The current thinking about fragmentation, even mentioned in the article above, is that it doesn't seem to be hindering sales of Android devices. So it must not be a problem, right? That's how a lot of reasoning goes in complex arguments.

It's similar to arguments against the reality of global warming. The human species isn't yet extinct, so global warming must not be an important issue. The net result in these kinds of arguments is that no one is able to foresee the consequences, so prudence and deep analysis is dispensed with. However, the consequences eventually make themselves apparent. By then, it's often too late.

Liz Gannes at AllThingsD has written en excellent article about how we overshare, worry too much about what other people think, and measure our self-worth by how many people follow us. "I’m So Over Oversharing: On Making Our Digital Lives More Real." This is Particle Debris required reading.

Caring about other people’s reactions is a natural part of sharing things. But social media so often turns people into strange, oversharing self-promoters. We end up living our offline lives thinking about capturing moments to share so we can get lots of likes. We fill our online permanent record with sometimes meaningless things. We try to not care about strange measures of self-worth, like how many people follow us, and whether that’s more than someone else."

Ms. Gannes goes on to craft her case for some very different kinds of social media apps, that aren't so ego driven. (Translation: testosterone poisoned.) One is Whisper, and the other is Snapchat. If you're tired of only rats winning the rat race in social media, this is a great read.

First we had so-so thermostats. They were kind of okay, designed to be installed by home builders. Occasionally we saw one that was exotic, but they never caught on. Then Tony Fadell, formerly with Apple, came along and invented the Nest thermostat. Then Honeywell sued. (And it's still in court.) And now Honeywell is trying to squash the upstart with its own gadget. The saga is recounted in "The battle over the smart connected thermostat rages on."

Finally, we've all been reading about Google's Chromecast, an Apple TV competitor. Now the reviews are starting to trickle out. The one I thought was most helpful for TMO readers was this: "How Google's Chromecast Lets Down iPhone Users."


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