Home' Technology Review : March April 2013 Contents 44
50 DISRUPTIVE COMPANIES 2013
MIT TECHNOLOGY REVIEW
gain enough mass to become a viable distribution channel, an
alternative to traditional cable TV,” suggests onetime Macin-
tosh executive Gassée, now a general partner at the venture firm
Allegis Capital. “When this happens, someone will crack.” That
is, a cable channel such as ESPN will offer its must-have sports
coverage on Apple TV, and others will feel forced to follow—thus
paving the way for a credible Apple television.
Apple has also explored building a cable set-top box—possi-
bly a souped-up Apple TV using a CableCard, a small card that
plugs into a DVR or other TV device and allows subscribers to
view cable channels without a separate box. Although it would be
working within the current cable industry model, Apple would
provide a more intuitive interface, like the iPad’s, and users would
be able to watch live and on-demand shows through an Internet-
based DVR service.
This might work. Comcast and Time Warner Cable execu-
tives have said they’re open to new program guide interfaces
from Apple and other companies so long as cable subscribers
keep paying them. Cable subscribers could be “authenticated”
through Apple’s set-top box, or eventually a TV, to prove they’re
subscribers—a system like the one HBO uses, for example, with
the HBO Go app that streams
its shows to mobile devices.
But Apple may not have
time to wait for them to deal.
Competition from Google
(which is experimenting with
a pay TV and Internet ser-
vice in Kansas City), Amazon
(which has a streaming video
service and plans to produce
original series), or Microsoft
(whose Xbox gaming console
is as much a video delivery device as a game machine) may force
Apple to stake out territory in the living room more forcefully,
and soon. Maybe, just maybe, a sleek Apple-designed flat screen,
combined with a more elegant user interface, iPads serving as
slick remotes, Apple’s existing iTunes library, and shows from
outside services such as Netflix and Hulu, would be compelling
enough for consumers while Eddy Cue keeps doing lunch in Hol-
lywood. “The reality from a consumer standpoint,” says Piper
Jaffray analyst Gene Munster, is that Apple “needs to revolution-
ize the interface and the design” before it can reorganize TV con-
tent. Munster expects to see an Apple television this November,
at least two years after he initially predicted. “We don’t need a
nuclear event around content for an Apple television to be suc-
cessful,” he says.
It’s worth noting that with its iPads and iPhones, Apple is
already selling the TV screen of choice for a rising number of
peripatetic viewers. You can’t use these devices to watch every-
thing you get on cable, but TV apps offer shows from CBS and
HBO, some free, plus live baseball games and other program-
ming. More than half of tablet owners under 35 watch TV on
them at least weekly, according to a survey in August by the
consulting firm Altman Vilandrie.
In other words, don’t just think of an Apple TV as the big
screen in the living room, or else you might miss where Apple
really envisions the 75-year-old medium going next: everywhere.
“Whatever it is, it’s not going to be just on that big box,” says
Jeremy Toeman, CEO of Dijit, developer of the TV program-
ming guide app NextGuide. Before long, he says, “everything
you have with a screen will become a television set.” Jobs may
have “cracked” television, but Apple could blow it wide open.
Robert D. Hof, a former Silicon Valley bureau chief for
BusinessWeek, wrote about Google TV in January/February 2011.
business and knew
the players, and
even he struggled
to persuade TV
COMPUTING & COMMUNICATIONS
PRIVATE | FOUNDED: 2005
Threatening the likes of Cisco
by using a compression tech-
nology to enable high-def video
conferencing on smartphones.
PUBLIC | FOUNDED: 1906
Automating urban services. A
Xerox system in Los Angeles
changes the price of parking
spots as demand fluctuates.
PUBLIC | FOUNDED: 1998
Making cloud services more
powerful with software-defined
networking, a technology it
gained by buying startup Nicira.
PRIVATE | FOUNDED: 1999
Sequencing more genomes
than anyone else and becom-
ing a worldwide provider of
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