The New York Times tells the story of Apple and its efforts to revolutionize the TV. As it stands now, it may be a long while before we see any kind of "iTV" from the fruity company as it experiments with this, experiments with that, and so on. The company is trying to re-imagine the television, to reinvent the way we watch our favorite shows and movies just as it reinvented the way we use a mobile phone. Yet at the same time, Apple also needs to play nice with content owners else all its efforts are in vain.
To land deals with cable companies and content providers, Apple is learning that it must cooperate instead of compete or dictate. Part of that cooperation has begun to appear on its set-top box, Apple TV. The company recently launched apps for HBO, ESPN and even Sky News, the latter of which brings the British-based news channel onto the TV sets in 13 million homes nationwide -- without the need for cable company negotiations.
Apple is also soon launching Time Warner Cable's TWC TV app for Apple TV. This app allows subscribers to watch live and on-demand programming. It has a programming guide far more superior than what Time Warner provides, according to the paper, but currently it doesn't provide Time Warner's complete channel lineup. Based on the report, that's likely to change, allowing subscribers to depend solely on the Apple TV device instead of TWC's hardware.
Sources claim that Apple has talked with other big content distributors about similar apps. The goal, according to the sources, is to collect a fee from distributors in exchange for "enhancing" their television programming. In turn, this enhancement is expected to keep subscribers willingly tied to their cable subscriptions. This backs up previous reports that iTV would provide a plethora of content-based apps presented in a way that's similar to what we have on the iPhone and iPad.
Sources also told the paper that Apple has proposed ad-skipping technology. This tech may compensate networks for the skipped ads by charging users directly (via the credit card number stored in their iTunes account most likely). Many channel owners briefed on the tech were actually "intrigued". After all, networks make a good chunk of their revenue selling advertisement space – ad-skipping technology would keep those streaming commercials firmly planted in your face.
For now, it seems that Apple is beefing up its set-top box, a device that's currently only a small part of its business. But the set-top box also seems to be testing grounds for what is to come. Unlike Google, Apple's plan was never to compete directly with Time Warner Cable and other subscription models, but as sources described it, "enhance" the TV experience overall for a new millennium. Currently it's "too much like ten or twenty years ago" as CEO Tim Cook said at the All things Digital conference in May. Current TV watching is "not an experience that I think many people love."
Over the last several years, sources have claimed that an iTV prototype actually exists. This device will supposedly feature iOS, Siri and motion detection for easy navigation. This latter aspect was heated up earlier this week thanks to rumors that Apple planned to acquire PrimeSense, the company that developed the 3D sensor for Microsoft's original Kinect. The valuation of the acquisition was expected to be between $280 and $300 million. Naturally PrimeSense refused to comment on rumors.
1 Mainstream, the company behind the Sky News app, said it has been a "learning year" for Apple and content providers as they determine how to transform the TV experience. "It’s a learning year for all of us, to say, O.K., what really does work?”