Why Apple's Next Generation TV Project is on Hold

Sometimes a graph tells a story very nicely but it leaves it to our speculation as to the underlying cause and the implications for the future. Here's the chart: "There's A Reason It Seems Like Everyone Is Always Staring At Their Smartphones."

Credit:  Business Insider

To make my headline case, I need to backtrack and explore this graph with some context.

Off the cuff, this kind of share graph can be deceptive. People don't buy a new TV every year, but they're crazy about smartphones. A family may have one HDTV but a half dozen phones for home and work. TV ads can be annoying, and it requires a DVR to expunge them, sometimes without complete success—by their design. On the other hand, smartphone and tablet displays are smaller, but the kind of content consumed may be more pleasing in principle. So is it mobility that's key or the perhaps temporary inability to push bandwidth hogging ads over cellular? Customer toleration for a waste of their mobile dollars is low.

Given that, we can still move on and look at relative trends. The Print part of the graph is perfectly understandable and is a reflection of how a low-tech, under-funded industry can get into trouble quickly in this high tech era. The Radio part is also easy to understand because people can listen to their own music, a virtual radio station, with subscriptions on a smartphone. Finally, the Online graph is understandable in light of people moving away from complex desktops and towards tablets—which are more mobile but not always used in a mobile environment. For example, as second screens.

The takeaway from this graph is that there are seemingly unstoppable trends, and while we pay quite a bit of attention to the obvious trends in radio and print, the unstoppable trend on the TV industry side is often dismissed—along with cord-cutters.

Broadcast TV's Dirty Secret

The one thing I keep coming back to when I look at this chart is that no one really enjoys watching commercials when viewing conventional TV. There are now much better ways to communicate to customers. That's the most fundamental fact of our time, and yet the implications are always brushed under the rug in order to preserve the industry's cash flow.

The movement to mobile versions of movies and TV shows as well as Netflix and Amazon Prime means that conventional Network TV shows will become more and more devalued. As a result, the networks will continue to haggle with carriers over carriage fees (and things like Dish's Ad Hopper). The whole thing is just going to break and break badly at some point because the video experience on mobile devices, especially phablets, is so much better. We don't need a DVR for our iPhone.  That sounds trite, but it's actually fundamental.

Given enough time, I believe the majority of TV viewers will generally abandon ad based network TV shows, and it's not because people love watching video on a 5-inch display. For additonal insight, see "TV IS OVER: Mobile Is Demoting TV To The Status Of Newspapers In Viewers And Ad Money.Like the iPod. iTunes and music, when an industry starts to come apart at the seams, Apple loves to jump in and create a disruption. Despite the content holders' extensive contracts, deals, protections, multiple delivery modes and efforts to cover all the bases, the danger from Apple is always lurking.

Perhaps the delay in Apple's next generation TV project is because Apple is waiting for key signs that the Networks are helpless to stop what's happening to them. When it's too late for a comeback, Apple can be poised to bring to bear a new technology that the networks never had the savvy or technical expertise to develop themselves. Then, Apple could slam the door of opportunity shut for good. 

Why go toe to toe when the opponent is already in self-destruct mode? Sometimes, as Sun Tzu said, lying in wait for the right moment can lead to victory.

Next page: the tech news debris for the week of December 8.

Page 2 - The Tech News Debris for the Week of December 8


How many of you have had recent trouble syncing your iPhone with iTunes? Kirk McElhearn has, and he's not happy about it. "Why Can’t Apple Fix iOS Syncing?" I haven't had this problem yet, but this kind of problem tells me two things.

First, iTunes needs to be factored so that the Apple engineers can focus on making an app that's supposed to do only one thing actually do that one thing. That's opposed to burying problems in a huge app that does so many things, it's impossible to demand excellence in every component.

Huge, monolithic apps bury their faults in a shrug.

Second, this kind of problem reveals that Apple's focus on simplicity is bankrupt when it comes to providing analysis aids and fix up techniques for the customer. In other words, if Apple wants something to be simple and intuitive, then there must be a lot of error recovery code inside the app and user side remedies and workarounds. The failure to do that means that the customer is helpless when something goes wrong.

Moving on.

My favorite Apple-holic, Jonny Evans, fills us in on what's been happening with iBeacon. "So, what's happening with Apple's iBeacon tech?" Good stuff.

Ted Landau, an awesome writer covering Apple, has some interesting thoughts on the evolution and fate of Apple's iPad. "Why the iPad is anything but doomed." While the title is upbeat, Mr. Landau does indeed dig into some of the emerging notions regarding the iPad sales slump. The question is, what is Apple going to do about it? Yours truly dug into that in last week's Particle Debris.

Over at iMore, Rene Ritchie makes a good case: "iOS 9 wish-list: VIP for Contacts, not just Mail." I concur.

Finally, consider this. The police officer stops you and asks for your drivers license and registration. But your drivers license is only in Passbook on your iPhone. The officer needs to take your iPhone back to his car for inspection and validation. Anyone see a problem here? Even so, this is probably coming, but we'll need some new, special safeguards. Here's some food for thought. "Iowa's smartphone driver's license is a big step toward all-digital wallets."


iPads image via Apple.

Particle Debris is a generally a mix of John Martellaro's observations and opinions about a standout event or article of the week (preamble on page one) followed by a discussion of articles that didn't make the TMO headlines, the technical news debris. The column is published most every Friday except for holidays.