Newsweek: Apple and Google talks could result in ‘iTV’ menu item for Google Video

Last week, Apple CEO Steve Jobs previewed a product “code-named iTV [due in the first quarter of 2007], a small box (the size of a sushi tray) intended to bridge the gap between the way we entertain ourselves on our computers and the way we distract ourselves in the living room,” Steven Levy reports for Newsweek.

“Though I agree with Jobs that downloads are the wave of future, for now I’m pretty happy with my current regimen of buying DVDs or renting them from Blockbuster or Netflix. Also, the price isn’t right. Downloading a movie costs up to $15 for new films, and 10 bucks for the backlist, even though similarly priced DVDs are more portable, can be wrapped as gifts and often come with cool bonus features,” Levy reports.

“On the other hand, Apple’s iTV product promises to be a classic Apple shot at a previously elusive sweet spot. Our computers have become fantastic media devices, holding our songs, our pictures and now our TV shows and movies—but there’s no easy, elegant way to get hold of that stuff while sprawled out in potato-land. iTV wants to be The Way. Instead of trying to be a digital workhorse with DVD drives, a hard disk and a tuner, it’s simply a Wi-Fi-enabled connection machine that cracks open all the stuff in your computer (and potentially, stuff on the Internet) and zips it to the TV set,” Levy reports.

“Is it possible that when iTV ships next year, you may also be able to choose a menu item called Google Video, and then zip through the best of the thousands of user-submitted videos on the search giant’s service? Google’s consumer product chief, Marissa Mayer, tells me that indeed, the two companies are engaged in talks,” Levy reports. “It’s inevitable that one day the boundaries between television and the computer will dissolve, but there are endless technicalities to hurdle. Could a simple $299 box really break the logjam? It seems like a stretch—but that’s what people said when Apple set out to change digital music.”

Full article here.
Note that Apple’s Safari web browser ships with Google search built-in and at the end of August Google CEO Dr. Eric Schmidt joined Apple’s Board of Directors. On the other hand, the addition of Google Video in iTV would seem to be somewhat at odds with the fact that iTV will feature iTunes podcasts, including video podcasts.

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The Register: Apple event more like ‘No Show’ than ‘Showtime’ – September 13, 2006
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16 Comments

  1. iTV is fine as far as it goes, but Jobs is wrong in thinking that they stumbled on the winning formula when they ‘realized’ it doesn’t have to be a set top box. In fact, that’s what people want – they just want it done better and, in the long run, cheaper.

    Everyone I know loves the advantages of hardrive DVRs, but the cable/satellite users don’t like not being able to use it to it’s fullest potential (all sorts of restrictions tie you to certain brands, services, & features when you’re a cable or satellite customer). And those not willing to pay the monthly fees for cable or satellite just wish they had access to more content. Further, everyone I talk to loves the idea of the 3rd gen TiVo (using each device as a P2P server that allows you to access content for all), and the ones that aren’t buying it simply can’t abide by the high cost of the device as well as paying that monthly subscription.

    The common thread is the monthly subscription. For the same reasons that music subscription services haven’t taken off at all, most people I’ve talked to would LOVE to ditch paying 50 bucks a month for a kazillion channels, of which they maybe watch 15-20, and of which they watch only a program or two from each consistently. It’s not that they are against paying for the things they truely want; but what the market wants is more granularization when it comes to the content they buy (buy only the shows they want, thus maximizing their dollars spent), and – yes – a little more flexibility with what they can easily do with the content once they’ve bought it.

    Sounds a lot like what Apple’s been doing so successfully with music on the iTMS for so long, doesn’t it?

    Basically Jobs is looking over the horizon for a ‘nifty’ solution that is staring him right in the face: Make the iTV a HDD DVR with a tuner that allows over-the-air HDTV to be piped in (analogous to allowing people to rip their CDs to their iTunes app), then leverage iTMS as a subscription TV killer, and then finally make the content thus bought or ripped fully ‘portable’ to whatever devices Apple makes & your TV – again, analogous to shuttling music btwn iPods, computers, & stereo systems (via Airport Express).

    Jobs shouldn’t be running away from the set top box model – he should simply be improving upon it. The reason why he’s not is that he’s still got his head wrapped around DRM as the defining feature of everything the industry (and he) should be doing. Well, that’s a false god. It’s what fatally crippled Amazon’s Unbox, and it’s what is apparently making everyone at Apple attempt to ignore the obvious solution to how they can make a buttload of money AND improve people’s ability to enjoy the digital age.

    Apple has made a little over a billion dollars on the nearly billion tracks of music they’ve sold since the debut of iTMS 6 years ago. In that same timeframe they’ve made about 6X’s that amount selling 6X’s fewer units of iPods than tracks of music. So, clearly the money is in the hardware.

    Just as clearly, the iPod wasn’t the invention of the portable digital music player. It was the refinement of an existing technology that was being ‘underleveraged’. Apple needs to do to take the same approach here with the iTV; make the HDD recording solution people do indeed want, do it with the same panache that’s been brought to bear on the iPod, and leverage iTMS to make it an even more compelling ‘package deal’. Keep the DRM functional, but loose – the best DRM system in the world is offering a superior product at a reasonable price.

    Right now, iTV and these way-to-expensive digitized movie downloads are both only half way there.

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  2. Hopefully Apple will have YouTube and others onboard too. I wouldn’t necessarily want to view YouTube clips on a TV screen but I think many would love to carry clips around on an iPod. For me, the picture quality would be acceptable on the iPod screen. This abundance of available content would make the video iPod an even more compelling device of choice (particularly in regions that do not have TV shows or movies to download yet) – certainly more compelling than, say, WiFi sharing of songs.

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