What Apple is 'Interested in' with the HDTV Viewing Experience


There was a time when many observers thought about Apple changing the way consumers watch content on their HDTV. Over time, it's become clear that the content holders have an iron grip on content, and so the new question may be: what can we do with that big display that we haven't been doing? That's something Apple is uniquely suited to change.

Jonathan Ive

One can make a list of things we haven't been doing much with our HDTVs that many would, perhaps, like to do. It's just a start, and there are likely many more.

  • Take screen shots and e-mail them.
  • Do facial recognition of actors.
  • Play fantastic games, making dedicated game boxes obsolete.
  • Throw content to them from our Macs. (Possible now, but perhaps rare.)
  • Do video conferencing between friends and family.
  • Picture-in-picture effects

If Apple were to start looking at the fundamental issues we have with owning a large screen and combine that with its typical taste and feel for solving problems, the issue of rethinking how we pay for selected content, so tightly controlled these days, would just sink into the background—all under the new vision of Sir Jonathan Ive, Senior VP of Design. Doing all that may, in fact, require seizing  control of the video hardware and display -- which rules out merely a next generation set-top box. It's just a thought that, I think, deserves some consideration.

In this week's technical news debris below, there are some dot connecting ideas about all that: the failure of 3D, Apple's strength in games, the evolution of the current Apple TV product, and so on. Perhaps one reason the rumored Apple HDTV project hasn't happened yet is because Apple has given up on the notion of how we pay for and watch content, and is instead exploring avenues that they have control over. As Tim Cook has said, Apple remains keenly "interested in" TV, but that may not mean content offerings so much as it means what Apple can do with the hardware. That could be an even bigger deal as we contine to play the game of "connect the dots."

Tech News Debris for the Week of June 17

There was a lot of discussion prior to WWDC about how Apple would abandon the skeuomorphic design of iOS 6 and flatten the OS. What people weren't expecting was a substitution of dimensionality and depth for skeuomorphism. David Cole, a designer at Quora writes an interesting analysis of iOS 7 for Forbes (believe it or not).

One of things I've mentioned before is that Apple's design principles are so subtle, if you don't recognize the effect they have on you (or others) subconsciously, then you may not appreciate what Apple is doing. Brooke Crothers explores this nicely in "One reason Apple is hard to beat."

You don't need to live in the Netherlands or speak Dutch to appreciate the visual humor in this article, "The many faces of the new Mac Pro."

How many customers does Apple have? One metric is the number of iTunes accounts, which Apple puts at 575 million. How much money is each one of those customers worth to Apple? Horace Dediu does a nice analysis of the numbers. "What’s an Apple user worth?"

When you have an agenda or don't really dig into the numbers its easy to come up with sensational article titles. Daniel Eran Dilger doesn't do that sort of thing, and he takes a deeper look at the Samsung sales numbers. "After crowning Samsung as Apple's heir, analysts now rethinking their math."

Are you noticing performance issues with Netflix with Verizon? The reason, according to this very good investigative article is that there is a "behind-the-scenes power play between Verizon and Cogent Communications, one of the largest bandwidth providers," according to Om Malik and Stacey Higginbotham. It's one of the blights of our times. "Having problems with your Netflix? You can blame Verizon."

A long time ago, in another galaxy, Apple had some ambitions for its platform, Mac OS X, to be used with supercomputers. The company made a few minor inroads in 2001-2005, but the technical commitment to such an endeavor compromised and distracted from the greater market. As a result, BSD Unix never made it in that field, and "Linux continues to rule supercomputers." Would you believe 476 of the fastest 500 computers in the world run Linux? One of the nice things about Linux is that you can recompile the kernel to suit your own special technical needs.

There's true innovation, when a product solves a genuine human need and truly deserves to exist. And then there's forced gadgetry, designed to prop up sales. We always felt that was true of home 3D HDTV, and now Disney agrees and has probably put the nail in the coffin of this headache producing fad. "Disney’s decision to shutter ESPN 3D at the end of the year suggests the format’s days in home entertainment are numbered."

Related to that is a very nice article that talks about "The Trajectory of Television—Internet rebellion and hardware renaissance." It's mostly a hardware perspective and doesn't mention Apple's "interest" in home TV.

And while we're on the subject of Apple and TV, Peter Cohen has some thoughts about Apple departing slightly from the purity of paying for content on the current Apple TV a la carte and moving into subscription-based services. What does this mean? No one knows for sure, but Mr, Cohen explores the issues. "Apple TV keeps users from cutting the cable TV cord." As I mentioned in the preamble above, maybe Apple is conceding to the content holders in order to then move on with its own agenda that it can control.

Apple is amazingly successful with iOS. Google is amazingly successful with Android. iOS 7 takes some ideas from Android, and Android takes some ideas from iOS. It was ever so with the Mac and Windows. So it's not unreasonable to think about the ways Google may be leaning towards some of Apple's successful practices. Here's the discussion: "The Future of Android Looks More Like Apple Inc."

Let's play 'Connect the dots' (and neurons).

Finally, connecting the dots is what it's all about in this business, and Jonathan S. Geller does some serious dot connecting here. "Apple’s plan to take over the living room while destroying Microsoft and Sony." Jonny Evans also chimes in on this. "WWDC: Now it looks like Apple's going to take out the console market."

Happy reading!


Neurons/dots via Shutterstock.

Particle Debris is a generally a mix of John Martellaro's observations and opinions about a standout event of the week combined with a summary of articles that didn't make the TMO headlines, the technical news debris. The column is published most every Friday except for holidays.