Apple’s A6 Successor Could Stagger the TV Industry

| Particle Debris

Apple develops technology at a relentless pace. One example is the investment in the low-power ARM/Cortex processors in order to bring amazing performance to the iPhones and iPads. To see that in action, one need only look at the rendering, in Real Racer 3, of race cars during Apple’s iPhone 5 media event. In that demo, we could see the reflections of other cars in the sides our car. And a faithful view in the rear-view mirror for the first time. This is giant processing power. It blows you away.

Image Credit: Real Racer 3

By continuing to move forward with technology and software innovation, Apple opens unexpected doors for itself.

And when technology paves the way, suddenly very bright people begin to see things they never saw before. On the other hand, older industries tend to get caught up in a tired way of doing things, and then they find that they can’t compete against Apple.

This week, Phil Swann at TV Predictions looks at the pickle the TV industry has gotten itself into by hanging its hat on 3D and 4K technologies -- instead of investing in enabling technologies as Apple has -- such as advanced displays, optics and CPUs (the A6). As a result, you can almost hear the footsteps in the halls as Apple poises itself to completely disrupt the TV industry. Apple's "hobby" is really creative play at its best. More follows below.

Tech News Debris

Here’s the classic industry syllogism.

  • Apple is making a lot of money, selling X.
  • We will sell a version of X, therefore
  • We will make a lot of money.

That syllogism, of course, ignores a lot of factors, but it’s worth a shot for many companies. Here’s this week’s first example: “Toys 'R' Us unwraps $150 Tabeo tablet for kids.” And here’s the second, “HP introduces new Apple iMac.” Yep, I had to read that headline twice myself. You’ll see what the TNW author is getting at.

In the August 31, 2012 Particle Debris , I spoke to how Linux and its developer community failed to gain a foothold on the consumer desktop -- and lost the UNIX competition to OS X. There were two articles that went into some details and some of P.D.’s astute readers added valuable insights.

Here’s a nice companion piece by a fellow who actually made the transition from Linux to OS X. Bozhidar Batsov described things he loved and things he hated about OS X: “From Linux to OSX - 1 Year Later.

We know from watching various industries that there’s a need to move customers along on the technology curve in order to have growth, indeed, sometimes even remain profitable. For example, Apple is in a great place, successfully getting tens of millions of customers to buy a new iPhone, with an intrinsic value of over $600, each and every year. The TV set industry isn’t in that favored position.

It has taken a lot of money and standardization to build satellites and infrastructure that can deliver 1080p to the living room. And so, TV makers, are constrained on how fast they can move forward. Recently, the primary technology drivers, to get people excited and buying new HDTVs, have been 3D and 4K. But many customers balked at the added cost of 3D glasses and many experienced awful headaches. As for 4K, there won’t be any source content or delivery infrastructure for many, many more years.

As a result, the starry-eyed visions of moving forward as fast as Apple have fallen flat and the TV makers are showing signs of desperation. “Are TV Makers Staring at The Abyss?” The question for us Apple fans is, how could Apple exploit that problem the TV makers are having? For example, is there a way to integrate the HDTV set with Apple technologies such that Apple could succeed in the industry where others are faltering? Of course, none of us can afford a new Plasma HDTV every year, but we’d think nothing of buying a new Apple TV for $99 each year. What could the A6 and future generation chips enable? It’s something to ponder.

Here is some quantitative proof that we're living in a Post-PC world.

I've been following the saga of Dish and its Ad Hopper.  Here's the latest episode. I don't think this will end well for Dish. IMO.

Have you heard of skeuomorphism? Austin Carr defines it: “Skeuomorphism is a catch-all term for when objects retain ornamental elements of past, derivative iterations--elements that are no longer necessary to the current objects’ functions.” You see that in iOS apps like the calendar that has faux leather and iBooks that simulates a wood bookshelf. Mr. Carr doesn’t think much of this design technique, and explains why. “Will Apple’s Tacky Software-Design Philosophy Cause A Revolt?

iCal Leather stitching

Even more intriguing is that Windows 8 makes a conscious decision to stay away from skeuomorphism for precisely the reasons Mr. Carr complains about. Windows 8 may not be beloved at this point, but it's nice to see Microsoft taking a stand based on certain core beliefs. You gotta love it.

Now we know. The iPhone 5 doesn’t have a Near Field Communications (NFC) capability built-in. As we’ve followed this technology, we’ve tended to think of NFC as something related to mobile payments. However, Ryan Fass points out that NFC can do a whole lot more. “Forget payments -- NFC in the iPhone could be used for a lot more interesting things.

The ebook industry is in great flux. Publishers are in scramble mode. Students will do as they darn well please. What’s the result? “Are College Students Buying Required Textbooks? 75% in US Say No.”

One would expect that a resourceful nation like China would eventually develop its own smartphone OS. It has. A Chinese company named Alibaba has developed “Aliyun.” It’s based on Linux, but different than Android. Or iOS, based on BSD. Business Insider sees some potential danger there for Apple and Google down the road. ”There Is A Huge Threat To Apple And Google That You've Never Heard Of.

Finally, I love to think about what our computers and phones might be like in, say, five or ten years. So does C|NET. And with the iPhone 5 just announced, this is a perfect time to think about all that. Here’s a fun story (but it requires Flash. C’mon C|NET!). “What a smartphone will look like in 5 years.

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Special Ed

But sir… HOW would the chip stagger the TV industry?  I agree the processing power is wonderful, and you can see all kinds of potential opportunities…  but you said yourself that TV content isnt going to change for a long time.  having an apple TV unit for $100 isn’t going to change the content or the quality of what is delivered.  Just because the AppleTV can generate wonderful quality graphics doesn’t mean there’s any content to take advantage of it.

HD streaming is going to come eventually.  It’s there now, but rare.  Bandwidth is our constraint now, but new codecs could fix that and a good proc could help with that. 

I like the idea of an AppleTV as a game platform.  Iphones become the consoles connected via wifi or other wireless.  The ATV renders the shared game experience in hi def, the iphones/touches provide a hand unit that is adaptable and has it’s own powerful processor.  I think it could change gaming much easier than it could change TV.

John Martellaro

Special Ed: If I knew all the details, Apple would hire me and put me under NDA.

What I see, looking through the glass darkly, is a glimmer of possibilities. Getting too specific without being an Apple engineer, is hard to do.

That said, I can think of a few things.
- The infrastructure for Blu-ray, cable, and satellite isn’t going to support 4K for many years.  But Apple could deliver it on the Internet if they built an A6 or A7 into a 4K “retina” HDTV. But Apple would need to work with content creators to build 4K content.  Apple has built itself a bridge with Thunderbolt instead of settling for HDMI.
- Apple apparently has a patent for 3D without the need of glasses—which might mean no more headaches.
- Apple could make strides in how we search for and select content, with Siri, that would embarrass those alphanumeric pads on which we select letters one at a time. Up/down. Right/left.  But Siri might have to get to the next level, local processing, (A6 or A7) that is powerful enough to be used by children.
- Apple just demonstrated game console-level graphics with Real Racer 3 on a mere iPhone with the A6. What could be done with a multi-processing array of, say, 32 A7s, a veritable supercomputer, with games on a next gen Apple TV?

These are just a few ideas that come to mind. As always, I take us down a path and let our imagination do the rest.

Special Ed

I understand your constraints.  I’m just askin.  smile 

- Without content, I don’t see a ‘retina display’ being a selling point.  Granted it will look gorgeous, but apple is very savvy about content.  4k is too expensive to produce (like IMAX), for regular viewing content to utilize it regularly.  It’s going to be many years for that to become reality. 
- Siri should happen.  Im a bit surprised the AppleTv can’t be controlled by Siri via your iphone already.  Someone will do this soon.  6 months tops, I agree.
- I’m a bit surprised Apple hasn’t already leveraged THunderbolt into a linkage platform not unlike xgrid.  Imagine 5 Mac Mini’s liked via ‘Thundergrid’ with a 6th ‘expansion’ mini designed to hold expansion cards.  Why would Apple need to make the Mac Pro anymore?  Need more horsepower?  buy another mini. 
- Thundergrid could also link other devices like you described.  A screen with an A6/7, appletv with A6/7 and an expansion type mini that could hold a ‘cable box adapter’ could give you a TiVo/Slingbox/Hulu type of device nexus all in one.  THAT could change distribution paradigms as creators could market directly to the end user instead of working through the cable/sat providers and networks.  And users could still subscribe to a comcast and allow those providers to leverage the end user horsepower to manage networks and bandwidth issues.



I wrote a post to this awhile back, but somehow it did not upload from my iPad to the site, although I thought I was logged in. Here’s trying again.

I think the issue of skeuomorphism is real and the article you cite prescient in anticipating an eventual clash between skeuomorphists and their antagonists. Tech users are increasingly represented by a generation who not only have never used some of these non-electronic data management systems, some have never even seen them and these representations do not provide the reference frame they do for an older generation. To play devil’s advocate, one can cite the continued popularity of antiques and retrostyle, however those tend to be collectors’ items or articles of clothing, and not essential daily use tools. MS should be applauded for avoiding this tendency in Windows 8, and Apple should rethink its value.

The HP piece is, in my view, indicative of the imaginative and innovative state of the industry being largely moribund, and being largely carried by the creativity of one company - Apple. Not only is the industry itself aware of this, it is sensitive and resentful to any attention being drawn to this fact by tech clients or pundits, hence the comment from Google’s VP over the weekend about ‘patents on rounded corners’, a disingenuous dig at Apple, and an allegation which I’m certain he knows to be disinformation.

Ryan Fass’s treatment of NFC is an eye-opener, and a welcome tour beyond the wallet. That said, NFC remains too under-supported to be of practical benefit at this time, and I think Apple were right not to include it in the iPhone 5. Nonetheless, it will take a company with the market presence of Apple to facilitate making NFC mainstream.

BTW: I was able to watch the CNET story just fine on my iPad via QuickTime.

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