Hidden Gems in Apple’s Announcements

by Andy Polaine on September 13, 2006

in General

Of course there is the usual commentary on Steve Jobs’ new Apple announcements and no doubt this will add to the slush pile, but I think there are a few hidden gems in there too.

The new iPods with fancier screens and better battery lives are all great, etc. as is less packaging (though I think Apple have a long way to go here, especially with recycling their products). Yes, the new iTV announcement of an Apple-styled media centre is big news too as is downloading full movies from the new iTunes store. But we all knew it was coming and if you had a MacMini you could already do a lot of it.

What suddenly struck as a flash of the obvious was the Podcasting part of that. Okay, so you can share you media across the airwaves and watch them on your TV and many of us have already done this plugging our laptops into the TV. But I’ve never bothered to do it with Podcasts. Maybe because the content hasn’t been so great, but maybe because the equation of effort to hook up the laptop vs the level of quality of the content made it not really worthwhile.

I think the new iTunes with movie downloads are probably the driver to actually purchase an iTV (or whatever they end up calling it) box, especially as it’s pretty cheap. But the real interest is that it may prove to be the tipping point for independent content – i.e. Podcasts. That’s a really big deal hidden away in there. Essentially Apple are providing a very simple (and this is important for sit back TV viewing) channel for independently produced content – the Apple channel, if you like. Except of course it is smarter and you can have all the material downloaded with smart rules, etc. So it’s even better than a TV channel. That means that you can start reaching millions of people in their living rooms, just like TV, except without the networks.

Of course there will be the usual issues of production funding, etc. but some of that model has been discussed elsewhere by the likes of Mark Pesce. There is also plenty of content that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg to produce, or content that professional content creators make in their spare time. I think this is bigger news than the movie downloads, which are basically an extension of the iTunes store model.

The other gems are the seemingly small tweaks to the user interface of iTunes and the iPods which are actually quite big leaps. I’m always impressed at Apple’s ability to introduce new GUI elements that simply feel like they might have been there all along and don’t jolt people’s current user patterns.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Mike Coulter September 18, 2006 at 12:01 pm

Blimey Andy, I’d never realised the implications of that when I saw iTV bit of the Apple webcast last week.

But of course it makes absolute sense. And not just podcasts; I guess by extension everything else on iTunes, and then YouTube/Google Video, will be fed through to the TV,(if the appropriate codecs/ playback quality is up to muster.)

A tipping point indeed.

Can the Microsoft, PlayStation and Nintendo upgrades be far behind?

This could be a really big deal.

2 Andy Polaine September 18, 2006 at 12:12 pm

Yes, it dawned on me as soon as I realised what my own behaviour has been recently, which is to often watch TV whilst having my laptop on my lap and noodling around on YouTube or whatever.

From my nosey-neighbour glances in people’s windows when walking home at night (come on, everyone does it right?) I appear to not be alone in this. I see it all the time. In fact, at friend’s houses we often each have a laptop going and are iChatting at the same time. Okay, so that’s a bit nerdy, but imagine instead of sending a link to a YouTube video you upload it to the TV. Your viewing becomes a collaborative experience too.

I’ve never been much of a fan of the idea of convergence into one device, but the idea of many devices being portals onto your content has always made much more sense. The TV, of course, being the big one we often sit down in front of.

Apple critics often scoff at the ‘prettiness’ of their products and interfaces versus the equivalent power for dollars in Windows land, but they do know how to make stuff easy enough for my parents to use – that’s the real tipping point. They’ve already started it with iTunes Music Store and the ease of publishing and subscribing to Podcasts there.

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