Today, E. Blasberg joins the ranks of TVMama contributors. E. Blasberg is an admitted Apple Fanboy, but he also knows more about it than most, and he isn’t afraid to be critical when the time is right. Here, he defends AppleTV, which has been criticized roundly in some quarters, as a harbinger of an entire new industry – and miles ahead of other products in the field. – TV Mama
By E. Blasberg
Predictions, especially in the world of high-tech, are a suckers game. The Prophets are invariably wrong: “Only toy computers use mice” (1984), “The iPod will never sell” (2001), “No one wants a cell phone without a hard keyboard” (yesterday). They were (or, in the case of the last quote, will be) all wrong. The one certain rule of thumb these days seems to be: Never underestimate Steve Jobs (CEO of Apple, Inc.).
But in the case of AppleTV, it’s possible that Steve Jobs underestimated Steve Jobs. At the recent “D: All Things Digital” conference in California, Jobs mentioned that Apple has three businesses (the Macintosh, iPod-iTunes, and the iPhone) and one hobby – AppleTV.
Originally pushed by his major shareholders to enter the “living room market” to counter Microsoft’s MediaPC, the AppleTV was not originally designed to do what is likely to wind up doing; and this may just surprise everyone, even Steve Jobs – at least one day.
Apple has chosen to enter, if not actually create, a nascent market for connecting the Internet to your living room (We won’t even mention the MediaPC with its 41-button remote and wind-tunnel fan, any more than we would mention the Model T in a discussion of 2007 model cars: They may both have four wheels and an engine, but that’s about where the comparison ends).
Don’t be fooled by their billing this as connecting your computers with all their media to your TV. The true secret and brilliance of AppleTV will be its ability to pull anything out of “the cloud” and put it on your big HD-TV (the ability to view YouTube on the Apple TV is only the first baby step in this direction).
Few years away
Of course, we’re a few years away from “the dream” of instant access films and TV shows and browsing (and shopping, and…and…) if only because we will all need a fiber-optic connection to the Internet for streaming HD movies, but the AppleTV is a good initial push on the consumer end.
Of course, competitors will come (Sony recently announced a similar device, albeit sans hard disk and it only connects to Sony HD-TVs) and they will surely go (said same Sony just disconnected its Connect music store, conceding defeat to iTunes, as have so many others).
AppleTV (like the iPod) may not have all the bells and whistles of the competitors, but it does have its one truly not-so-secret weapon: absolutely untouchable software. Everything Apple makes is simple, easy and intuitive. And beautiful. Did I mention beautiful?
Yes, I’m an Apple Fanboy. But I’d jump ship in a second if someone (anyone) could make as elegant and as simple a user interface as Apple does time and again (for all their designer talent, Apple has amazing hubris, and real competition would do them, if not us, some good).
First step taken
I suspect 2007 will be viewed in very much the same way 1984 is viewed today: A paradigm has shifted. We’ve barely taken a first step in that direction, but a solid and worthwhile step it is.
The future is bright. It holds fast and cheap entertainment, true independence from the cable TV companies, freedom and variety at levels 400-channel satellite TV won’t be able to touch (after all, no satellite can show your digital home movies or vacation photos on your TV as AppleTV can even today).
The market for AppleTV doesn’t really exist yet (sales estimates of Apple TVs are hard to come by, but rumor has it that they’ve sold about 100,000 in four months, while iPhones are conservatively estimated to sell about 3 million in that same time-frame, and an iPhone costs at least $200 more than AppleTV).
But this market will mature, and the entire entertainment distribution system will change when it does. Of course, this poses many new questions like: Who will make TV shows when no one is watching broadcast television anymore? Why would anyone rent from Blockbuster when you can just stream any movie you like from the Internet?
I suspect many industries will have to adapt or die;within 10 years the way we consume our entertainment will not be recognizable to what we have today. In any case, the best is yet to come and I’m in for the ride.