In something of a departure from the norm, Apple's (News - Alert) CEO, Tim Cook, recently dropped a few hints of his own about the long-awaited and often-discussed plans for an Apple-branded television. While these plans have emerged before, this may well be one of the first times that Cook himself has mentioned the subject in a recent interview with NBC News anchor Brian Williams (News - Alert).
Calling it "an area of intense interest", Cook elaborated that watching television for him feels almost like a trip back in time, somewhere between two and three decades, so naturally, Apple has an interest in improving the experience. This is an interest that goes back all the way to the Steve Jobs (News - Alert) era of Apple, as Jobs' biographer, Walter Isaacson, detailed that Jobs had, reportedly, "finally cracked" the secret to making television a better experience.
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While for many users, Apple TV is a great set-top box and a significant improvement over anything cable could offer--and was often referred to as "a hobby" by Apple proper--that provided many of the standards in streaming video. Connections to Netflix, Hulu (News - Alert) Plus, and of course iTunes were all fairly standard fare. But Apple users, used to Apple's ongoing pushing of the envelope in most every field it worked in, wanted more than just a refined Roku box with an iTunes connection. They wanted Apple to bring the iPad / iPhone (News - Alert) / iPod Touch level of innovation to their living room. Apple, meanwhile, has discovered that even their incredible market clout isn't exactly much of a match for vested interests.
Apple has recently been trying to make inroads with content providers, and has discovered, much to its consternation, that the content providers aren't really interested in being part of a cutting edge system that will change the way people watch television, especially since it will break many of their previously established business models and not exactly replace them. If anyone can watch what they want when they want for one low monthly fee, then what is the sense of packaging up one movie on a Blu-ray disc that sells for $30 or more? The change from physical media to digital media has left content providers hesitant, especially when the issue of revenue gets involved. So while Apple can offer up cutting-edge hardware, it may well prove an edge that cuts revenue for the content providers, which has left them gun-shy about offering up content for online consumption.
The key to that would seem to be archival titles. We all know it's easy to go out and buy a copy of, say, "Caddyshack" for five dollars or less in any bargain bin on the face of the Earth. Used copies abound, making things even easier. Moreover, there are substantial lists of titles from the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s that simply can't be found by most conventional channels, and that poses an opportunity that content providers shouldn't easily ignore. Sure, maybe they want to hold off on bringing out the latest and greatest until it's had a chance to boil down through the ranks, but even five year old fare on streaming would likely prove welcome.
There's opportunity to be had out there with a little thinking outside the box, and hooking up with Apple may be a great way to see that opportunity realized to its fullest.
Edited by Brooke Neuman