Software, Hardware, Silverware

Entries tagged: Television

I have a particular bent toward the future of television, as you may have noticed.

ABC News Now on Apple TV

Apple TV owners can now stream live ABC News, national and a some local stations. There are two types of content that’s been slow to move into the post-cable era: live news and live sports. I’m a big fan of watching the news in the morning before work, and Apple TV has had SkyNews for awhile, which is OK, but the addition of an American news channel is most welcome. Now I’ll keep crossing my fingers to be awoken by Siri giving me the weather, my schedule, and then turning on my TV for me and tuning to the news.

The Apple TV ‘Events’ Channel Is Live

Check your Apple TV, tune in at 10 AM pacific/1 PM eastern. Don’t miss it.

Sherlock Season 3 to Premiere January 19 in US

It’ll be even sooner in the UK.

BBC Unearths Long-Lost Doctor Who Episodes

Paul Sawers for The Next Web:

“The tapes had been left gathering dust in a store room at a television relay station in Nigeria,” says Morris. “I remember wiping the dust off the masking tape on the canisters and my heart missed a beat as I saw the words ‘Doctor Who’. When I read the story code I realized I’d found something pretty special.”

The episodes are available exclusively from iTunes.

“Well, this is magic.”

— Stephen Hackett, on the Apple TV’s new touch-to-setup feature.

Warner and J.K. Rowling Reach Wide-Ranging Deal

Michael Cieply for The New York Times:

Warner Brothers is doubling down on the J. K. Rowling business. The studio, whose blockbuster “Harry Potter” films have generated billions of dollars for the company, announced on Thursday that it had concluded a deal with Ms. Rowling that will include new movies, distribution rights to a television mini-series and new theme park attractions.

A new film series centered around Newt Scamander that Rowling is writing and is “very excited” about, distribution rights for The Casual Vacancy miniseries in production by the BBC, and continued theme park deals. These are exciting times, my friends.

Peter Capaldi Unveiled as New Doctor

Anyone else have a problem with the fact that Peter Capaldi has been on both Doctor Who and Torchwood (playing two different characters) in the past?

…anyone else worried that Stephen Moffat’s going to try to be clever and make that look intentional?

The Verge’s Review of the Apple TV

The Apple TV, which can literally do every single thing the Chromebox can, got a “Verge score” of 7.8. They marked it down for content availability and its software.


The Verge Reviews the Chromecast

If I was reviewing a new television set-top box (or “dongle”), I’d probably focus on video quality:

Even at the highest quality video playback isn’t perfectly smooth, and there are some glitches here and there. You’ll also need a decently powerful machine: performance on my older Samsung Series 5 Chromebook was so terrible it was unusable, and I occasionally got performance warnings on my Core i7 MacBook Pro as well.

Content availability:

Unlike AirPlay, which is built into the system video player on iOS and integrated into OS X, Chromecast requires app developers to add support to every app individually. That’s going to take time and some intense lobbying from Google. Pandora support is coming, but unless you’re a heavy Google Play user, right now the Chromecast’s entire app story is Netflix and YouTube.

And maybe I’d throw in a thing about build quality:

The whole thing is a little under 3 inches long, and it’ll stick out about 2.5 inches when plugged into an HDMI port. That can lead to some problems if you bump into it or otherwise jostle it around — I bent the HDMI connector on one of my Chromecasts within minutes of plugging it in. (It still works, but it wasn’t exactly reassuring.)

The Verge gave the Chromecast “Verge scores” of 8, 7, and 8 out of 10, respectively for those categories, for a combined average (?) of 8.5/10.

Serious question: did Google pay these guys off?

Apple TV to Get Automatic “Touch to Configure” Setup Via Bluetooth

In the near future, when you buy a new Apple TV, instead of typing all of your passwords with a four-way controller, you can just touch your iPhone to the Apple TV.

This feels like the future.


John Gruber on Google’s new Chromecast:

Other than price, I can’t see why anyone wouldn’t just buy an Apple TV instead. And even price-wise, it’s not like Apple TV is expensive.

The future of television isn’t going to be a dongle that only streams content from your browser. It just isn’t. There are two obvious problems with that: first, what do I do if I don’t have a browser handy? Can I fire up the Netflix app on my Chromecast? Nope. And second, native apps will always be better than web apps. The world wants native apps. I know Google is all about the web and many of us would like to think that web apps are on the verge of taking over, but that just isn’t happening. “This is the year web apps take over” is the new “this is the year of Linux on the desktop”.

Six Year Old Kills It On America’s Got Talent

Wait for it…

Bo Burnham’s ‘Zack Stone’ Cancelled

Bo Burnham:

So, is Zach Stone over forever? At MTV, I think so. But who knows? When making the show, I had kind of thought/sensed that it may be a one season show (like Lisa Kudrow’s “The Comeback”), so we made sure that this season could stand alone as its own contained thing. But if you guys continue to watch the show and show it to friends, it very well may have a second life somewhere else (and anyway I think the show is re-watchable, eh?).

Netflix should pick this one up.

The Next Apple TV as a Dongle

More Apple TV speculation, this time from Benedict Evans:

Now, consider a new ‘Apple TV’ that’s an HDMI dongle, powered by HDMI so you can just plug it in. It uses wifi direct to advertise itself such that as soon as you plug it into the back of your TV, your iPhone pops up and tells you it’s available. No need to enter a wifi key, no need to fiddle around with an keyboard on your TV screen. Maybe it uses peer-to-peer from then on, or maybe your iPhone tells it the wifi key. And to get the cost down, all it does is Airplay (which Apple has promoted to front and centre of iOS 7 by putting it on the control screen panel). So for $50, any TV becomes a remote display for any iOS device.

An HDMI dongle without any other connections sounds futuristic and cool, but it won’t happen. It doesn’t fit into Apple’s game plan. Apple profits off device sales. If the Apple TV is a dongle, it ceases being a device and becomes an accessory.

While the current Apple TV is better in a household with many other Apple devices, Ben’s hypothetical TV requires a household with other Apple devices. That limits the market while simultaneously reducing the margins on each unit sold (half the price means lower margins). Not good for profits.

How Apple Wins the Next Console War

It’s popular to speculate on where Apple is going with television. Universally these predictions are always wrong. They ramp up right before a big Apple event, the event comes and goes, and Apple neglects to even mention television. It would be foolish, then, for a sensible commentator such as I to take a turn. So here goes.

If you’d asked me a couple years ago what I thought Apple was going to do with television, I would have said something along the lines of a TiVo, but with Apple software so it wouldn’t be slow and irritating to use. I would have surmised that Apple would partner with a single cable provider in the United States and provide a tightly integrated experience combining DVR functionality and internet programming. But that’s entirely misguided.

Thing is, the little black box called Apple TV is Apple’s television strategy. When Steve Jobs announced “one more hobby” at the 2010 iPod event, he wasn’t announcing a stopgap before the real deal. This was it. This is it. Most people (myself included) missed it.

We’re accustomed to Apple entering a market and dramatically changing it. Macintosh. iPod. iPhone. iPad. Apple TV didn’t. It isn’t so different from other internet streaming devices we can connect to our televisions. Most of these have been available long before Apple TV, and Apple TV wasn’t dramatically different or better than any of them. We glanced past it and decided Apple’s grand television er… vision had to be still in the labs.

I don’t think Apple would keep this thing around for two and a half years if it wasn’t their ultimate plan1. In 2010, Apple unveiled a refined, core product that lacked in features but made up for it by working really, really well. As they are wont to do.

Those of us who own these little black boxes love ‘em. And it continues to get better. Services are added consistently every few months, and today we have a device that streams from the majority of services we want. Those we don’t have will come in time2.

But what’s next? Apps. Many of us were hoping for an SDK at WWDC. Obviously that didn’t happen, and in retrospect it’s clear why: Apple didn’t have time. In case you missed it, iOS 7 was a huge undertaking, and accomplishing it in 6 months meant pulling engineers away from other projects.

But some of the stuff announced as a part of iOS 7 at WWDC hint at the future of Apple TV. In particular: game controllers. Under the MFi3 program, Apple will be licensing the manufacture of official, standard game controllers with a common control set that game developers can easily support.

When iOS 7 ships in the fall, a companion build will drop for Apple TV. I expect it to include game controller support. And I expect to drop with it an SDK.

With the iPod touch, Apple accidentally dominated the handheld gaming market. Neither they no Nintendo could have predicted it, but it happened. iPod touch was affordable, the interface was exciting, the games were addictive, and it did a hell of a lot more than play games. Since and as a result, Apple has embraced games with Game Center and dozens of related API’s. The technical merits of those API’s notwithstanding, the shear volume of Apple customers out there demands that millions are using Game Center, and developers are writing for it.

Apple TV will accidentally (though less accidentally than in the case of the iPod touch) dominate the console gaming market. The OS update that brings the App Store to the TV will bring Game Center as well. Games will be the top the store’s charts4. More advanced, console-quality games will follow, but the beauty of the situation is that those aren’t even necessary.

The Wii unquestionably won the last console generation. It outsold the PlayStation 3 and the Xbox 360. It didn’t win because of its outstanding graphics performance or its high-quality games. In fact, most “gamers” passed it on for more “serious” consoles. The Wii won because it was affordable and because it was fun for non-“gamers”. People who’d never considered a game console before snapped them up. It was the first mass-market game console.

The story will be the same with Apple TV. Normal people will flock to the fun and addictive games we’ve grown to love on iOS. And they’ll flock to its price. The Xbox One is $499. The PlayStation 4 is $399. The Wii U is $299. The Apple TV is $200 cheaper than the least expensive next-generation console. Obviously the discrepancy is explained away entirely by hardware, but that’s moot.

This fall there’ll be a new Apple TV5. It’ll retain the affordable-for-all might-as-well-buy-two price point. It will run a new version of iOS with an App Store and Game Center. Older black box Apple TV’s will update to this new version. It will have support for a multitude of third party game controllers in all shapes, sizes, and price points (it might even come bundled with one or two). This holiday season, Apple will sell a shit-ton of them.

If Sony or Xbox or Nintendo were going for marketshare this round, they totally missed the point of the Wii’s success.

  1. The first generation Apple TV stuck around for three years so feel free to ignore everything I’m about to say. ↩︎

  2. Yes, even Amazon Instant Video. ↩︎

  3. “Made for i(Pod/Phone/Pad)”. ↩︎

  4. As they already are on touchscreen devices. ↩︎

  5. This is of course a prediction… ↩︎

HBO Go, WatchESPN, and Sky News Added to Apple TV

HBO Go and WatchESPN require cable subscriptions, which is a big let down. Sky News is interesting, though, as live news is probably what I’ve missed most from cable.

Introducing Apple TV Apps At WWDC

Tyler Hayes:

The time is right. Introducing apps now gives lead in time for testing and growth before — if they ever do — introducing a full-on television. Personally, I’ll be more surprised if Apple doesn’t introduce apps for Apple TV next week, than if they do. I, for one, can’t wait to get Amazon Prime videos on my Apple TV.

I’m not sure I agree with the “more surprised if they don’t” line, but Apple TV apps really are past due.

Matt Smith to Hang Up the Bow Tie at Christmas

But really, it’s time.

‘Community’ to Return for Fifth Season with Dan Harmon

Dan Harmon today announced via Twitter that he’ll be returning for Community season five:

Yes yes yes!


Marvel’s ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’

Looks like more great stuff coming out of Marvel, this time for television. Iron Man 3 was excellent, by the way.

First ‘Arrested Development’ Season Four Trailer

“Now, with this car, you might get some stares.”

“I’m used to a car with some stairs.”

Seth Meyers to Takeover ‘Late Night’

Early next year when Jimmy Fallon moves up to The Tonight Show, Seth Meyers will fill Fallon’s role on Late Night. I can’t think of a better person for the job than Seth.

Netflix Now More Popular than HBO in U.S.

Netflix has for the first time overtaken HBO in U.S. subscriber-count, reports Andrew Wallenstein for Variety. Wallenstein notes that this news “will likely escalate the rivalry” between the two companies. On the contrary, this match is Netflix’s to win or lose. While Netflix is still far behind HBO in international subscribers, Wallenstein notes, they have the momentum. They have the upper hand.

“The goal is to become HBO faster than HBO can become us.” That was Ted Sarandos, Netflix’s chief content officer, three months ago. It’s getting to the point where HBO won’t be able to catch up.

News Corp to Take Fox Off Air If Courts Back Aereo


‘Arrested Development’ Returns May 26

Arrested Development. Season 4. 15 new episodes. 26 May. Only on Netflix.

May is going to be a big month.

David Tennant to Return to Doctor Who

David Tennant and Billie Piper will join Matt Smith and Jenna-Louise Coleman in the fiftieth anniversary special. Words cannot express my joy right now.

Hulu Plus for Apple TV Redesigned

Et tu, Netflix?

Introducing Roku 3

While I am an Apple TV user and will remain as such, I really like this new feature from Roku (emphasis added):

It’s a great day for TV lovers. Today, we’re excited to introduce the new, fully loaded Roku 3 – our fastest, most powerful streaming player to-date. From an intuitive new interface to an enhanced remote with built-in headphone jack for private listening, the all-new Roku 3 was designed with you in mind.

Apple could and should do this. While they’re at it, why not add a microphone for Siri?

UPDATE: Thinking on it, Apple already has this remote in the hands of millions. They just haven’t written the software for it yet.

Because That’s Where the Content Is

MG Siegler:

And once they have them, just as it was in 2007, Apple will undoubtedly unveil some sort of beautiful hardware. Maybe it will be an actual television, or maybe at first it will just be a new set-top box. It doesn’t matter. People will lust after it because people tend to lust after diamonds rather than pieces of shit — which is exactly what the vast majority of cable boxes currently are. And they’ll iterate and iterate and push apps and other services. They’ll slowly steal the customers from the cable companies. The cable companies will realize this and threaten to back away. Maybe some of them turn to the open arms of Google TV and/or their Motorola division. A couple others go with Microsoft. We’ve seen this story before.

Really well written piece by Siegler. He seems pretty confident that Apple will make a DVR set top box for cable television. I hope he’s right.

‘Arrested Development’ to Return for a Fourth Season on Netflix

The fact that this news escaped me three months ago is both surprising and infuriating. 2013 is going to be a good year.

Regarding Apple’s Edge and the New Apple TV Interface

Great piece by Cody Fink over at MacStories. He does a good job of explaining why this tweet by former Apple TV engineer Michael Margolis doesn’t actually mean that Apple’s era of great design is over.

The Loop Reviews the New Apple TV

Jim Dalrymple reviews the updated Apple TV:

The Apple TV is the epitome of convenience. With iCloud, I have access to all of my iTunes Match music and videos, so I don’t need to connect to a computer anymore. I can purchase movies, TV shows and I can watch content from Netflix. That’s perfect.

The new Apple TV has an interface that resembles iOS app icons. Hm.

iTunes vs. Blu-ray

Iljitsch van Beijnum at Ars Technica compared the quality of iTunes 1080p downloads and Blu-ray:

I was surprised to see how close the iTunes 1080p download comes to Blu-ray, considering that it’s only a fraction of the file size. And let’s be honest: there are lots of Blu-ray titles that look much worse than this iTunes download. But despite an impressive effort by Apple, Blu-ray still reigns king when it comes to image quality. And unlike iTunes titles, BRDs can have uncompressed multi-channel audio, multiple audio language options, and special features. Am I being greedy in wanting both good-looking downloads for convenience, as well as buy-once-play-anywhere Blu-ray discs of my all-time favorite movies?

The future is digital, whether we like it or not. The quality of video compression will only go up. Not to mention the rising speed of Internet connections and size of storage drives, meaning we’ll have room for those massive Blu-ray-quality files.

Oh, Television

Patrick Rhone:

I then do what I should have simply done in the first place. I hook up the iPad to the free hotel wifi and hand it to her. She fires up the Netflix app, chooses a show, and she is happy.

This, she gets. This makes sense.

Our children shall be so fortunate.

ITV’s Warning to Apple

Katherine Rushton:

However, insiders fear that the world’s biggest company might take a different stance under Tim Cook, who replaced Steve Jobs as chief executive shortly before Mr Jobs died in August last year.

I get it, Steve Jobs was super relaxed about not getting the name he wanted for the Apple TV, and Tim Cook’s a loose cannon. Right.

NBC’s “Brotherhood”

Pre-Super Bowl ad by host network NBC. A very well done ad, as I’d expect from NBC’s sitcom department.