Apple has a big announcement coming. Should we care?

by Colin McGuire. 0 Comments

“On Tuesday, Apple Will Make You Want To Buy An Apple TV For The Holidays.”

That was the headline on Forbes Sunday morning as Anthony Wing Kosner wrote about the rumors surrounding Easy A’s event set for tomorrow (let’s hear it for BlogSpeak and the use of the word “tomorrow”!). Most Apple-ites suspect both new iPads and new MacBook Pros will be unleashed, while others are making the case that a huge leap in the company’s play for television domination will also be on hand.

Thus the headline. Duh.

Kosner gave reasons why he believes this will happen. Among them were the requisite rumblings about content deals and the mysterious French and German Amazon product postings that feature a new Apple TV slated to become available … on Oct. 23. And if you don’t think that was done on purpose, then you probably still think a Gateway computer is on the cutting edge of contemporary technology.

Anyway, the rumors grew. The rumors shrank. It was intense. It was sparse. And now it’s much ado about nothing.

Apple Insider chimed in late last night to note that “the Apple TV project has been delayed a bit” after The Very Important MG Siegler retracted some statements he made that suggested something big was in the works. At this point, everyone believes that the announcement will regard nothing more than a mere “spec bump,” which is only really designed to allow tech writers to use the phrase “spec bump” smartly in something they publish. Cult of Mac’s Mike Elgan, meanwhile, believes something else.

“Yes, awesome new user interfaces are coming to Apple TV, including probably voice and in-air gesture control,” he wrote. “And, yes, Apple may build a TV set. But for now, who cares? What makes people buy into Apple as an interface to TV programming is: 1) content; and 2) experience. Apple will announce big upgrades to both of these categories Tuesday, I believe. And doing so will send people to the Apple Stores to buy Apple TVs as holiday gifts.”

And about that content …

Reading through the countless articles and speculation about what the company might announce Tuesday, I had a range of very succinct feelings run through my mind. They went like this:

– Boy, the thing is only 99 bucks and if they have a bunch of crazy great announcements up their sleeve, I should take the plunge.
– All right. Christmas is coming. It’s clear they want to market this for the holidays. They’ve got me. I’m asking for one.
– Wait. Should I ask for one?
– Hold on, AMC and ESPN are rumored to be part of the coming announcement. All right. Definitely worth it.
– Oh, yeah. That’s right. I would have to buy a subscription for ESPN.
– So, if I have to buy a subscription to ESPN, I’m going to have to buy a subscription for AMC, aren’t I?
– OK. I have no idea about what I want for Christmas.

Here’s the thing: The most important reason I don’t have cable now? I want to save money. I don’t need to, per se, but I want to. And, as it goes, of all the many countless things offered in society today that serve as nothing more than distractions, television is the most prominent. That’s not to say I watch nothing — movies and TV on DVD have been as integral in my life for the last five to seven years as anything else — but if I have an extra 15 minutes before I head to work in the morning, I’m not mindlessly staring at the sixth hour of the “Today” show on NBC; rather, I’m putting a small dent in a book I’m reading or I’m doing That One Thing I’ve been meaning to do around the house. I obviously love television content. I just can’t justify paying an extra 60 bucks a month to stare at Kathy Lee during the early hours of a day.

And that’s why I began second-, third- and fourth-guessing the notion of running out and buying an Apple TV. I don’t want to pay two bucks for a “Breaking Bad” episode. Ideally, I want to pay nothing. Or, if I’m going to have to pay for it, I might as well wait for the DVD set to come out because at least then I might be thrown a few Special Features along with the episodes. Likewise, I don’t want to pay $7 a month for the ability to watch “Sports Center” each night. I can read game stories and watch a quick highlight reel free of cost online instead.

What it comes down to is this: There is room for only one (I could be swayed to two, but we’ll stay away from that for now) pay-service in any typical consumer’s household. A quick three bucks there, two bucks here and seven bucks elsewhere — they all add up mighty quickly. So much so, in fact, that it completely compromises the practicality in relying solely on the Internet for television. It also subliminally suggests greed on the part of each network’s operations. “Oh, so NBC wants to charge us five bucks a month? Well, CBS is asking for $8.50. Who does CBS think they are?”

“I believe Apple’s short-term approach is that participating cable providers will pay Apple a fee to be included in their service using a new software interface to be announced this week,” Elgan wrote later in his Cult of Mac piece. “Content providers will increasingly pay this fee, because Apple TV users will increasingly refuse to leave the comfort and safety of the Apple TV interface. The long-term play, I also believe, will be for Apple to flip that — Apple will eventually charge a cable subscription to customers, then pay the cable companies a cut — essentially Apple’s ‘agency’ model applied to TV cable subscriptions.”

Translation? It’s going to be a harder sell for people like me, who still want to keep monthly costs at a minimum. I’m not bailing on Netflix, this I know for sure. “House Of Cards,” “Derek” and “Orange Is The New Black” are reasons enough to stick around to see what Big Red has up its sleeve for future original programming. So, then what? Let’s say ESPN is going to charge eight bucks a month for its service. For both the DVD and instant streaming packages from Netflix, it runs somewhere near $20. So, at that point, I’d be paying in the neighborhood of $30 a month for TV Without A TV. At which point, I’d be forced to ask …

What’s the point? Why not just pay for a basic cable package and not worry about how slow my Internet connection is at home?

It’s a wicked game, this Apple TV stuff. Whatever those guys have in mind for tomorrow’s big announcement may dictate my approach and attitude toward whatever they have in store for the television game. They figured out how to turn the music world on its head with iTunes and iPods. That said, they did it when Steve Jobs was still around, using that once-in-a-lifetime mind to unlock the secret code for World Domination. This time around, they’ll need someone else to step up before another Jobs-like mind eventually steps to the forefront … perhaps at a different company.

It won’t be iImpossible, of course. But for as long as they keep delaying their secrets and advances, it certainly will be iHarder.


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