Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Volume 3 Issue 50: Two-Cent Economics

The Next Generation Apple TV
The Old Generation Apple TV
As a disclaimer, I am no Apple geek and am no tech writer. I occassionally delve into techy stuff and indulge myself in Apple products once in a while. That is the extent of my Apple experience.

But recently, after some light-hearted discussion with more intelligent people, I came up with a possible idea for the possible Apple TV that Steve Jobs apparently cracked.

Nonetheless, let me first put down a few thoughts. Apple has never really been an inventor. They were not the first to invent a portable mp3 player (iPod). They were not the first to invent a touchscreen phone (iPhone). They were not the first to invent a music player (iTunes). They were not the first to allow music downloads (iTunes Store). What they did was put a bunch of really cool stuff together. So, what I came up with is not very different. I am combining a bunch of really cool existing technology and ideas together to form what could possibly change the whole TV-viewing experience.

1. Youtube, Netflix, iTunes

Video-streaming is the in-thing these days. It is fun and convenient because it can be like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get. More and more people are sharing videos of stuff they think are interesting or cool or worth watching. The Apple TV will contain video streaming, no doubt. Of course, by extending the idea of iTunes and Netflix, you can basically get a movie store that allows you to download/stream movies by paying a small fee. With increasingly fast internet speeds, this is becoming more and more possible.

2. Pandora, Amazon etc.

Now, combine the streaming experience, with a software that recognizes tastes and preferences. Of course, currently Youtube has some element of that, but very often, there are just songs and movies out there that we may like but we do not know that they exist. Using the Amazon-based idea of "Users who have bought Book A, also purchased Book B", we could create a whole new experience for the user. Now, users can find out movies that they like without having to look it up. Typically, the movies would probably be categorized by genre's actors/actresses, movies with twists, length of movie/video. And we can look them up based on these categories.

With the above two features, it is probably not a game-changer yet. You could probably do that with Netflix already. But very often, we forget that there are two components to the TV. Well, it is a recent phenomenon. There is the TV unit, and the very often forgotten unit, the remote. Essentially, the remote is the key determinant of the user's experience with the TV.

3. The "iRemote"

Now, imagine a new remote app called the "iRemote". Presently, most remote controls only allow you to navigate the TV screen using irritating arrow buttons that allow you to move up, down, left and right. But now you're going to have a touchscreen to navigate the TV. You don't even need an additional device. You just need your current iDevice, be it the iPod, iPhone or iPad. They can probably be connected through wifi or bluetooth, so you don't have to irritatingly point your remote at the TV to ask it to do stuff. Now, imagine coming home from a tired day and plopping yourself down on the sofa, busting out your iPhone or iPod, and voila, you can control your TV from there. No need to look for the remote in between the sofa seats and what not.

4. Siri

This is the clincher. If you thought the "iRemote" was cool, imagine controlling your TV with voice command. The possibilities are limitless. There are just days that I come back home and just feel like I want to watch a movie but I don't know what movie to watch. I just know I need something relaxing and funny to take my mind of things. So what do I do? I just tell Siri to connect to the Apple TV and find me a movie that is funny and relaxing. As the Apple TV recognizes genres and my preferences, it will bring up a list of movies that I may like. I can even filter it by asking Siri to remove movies that have Jim Carrey in it because I find him irritating. Maybe narrow down the list to those that only feature Adam Sandler or Seth Rogen. All this from voice command, without so much as touching the remote or scrolling through an irrelevant list. I don't even have to care if I already have the movie or not because of the streaming capabilities. I can tell Siri to turn on the subtitles, or turn down the volume or change the brightness without having to even touch any button on the remote. OK, maybe I have to call up Siri.

Another way to use this is, very often, let's say we are just sitting around waiting for our friend or wife/husband or somebody to get ready and we have about 2-3 minutes to spare, we don't know what to do with it. Instead of just whining about it, call up Siri and ask it to find you a 2-3 minute video clip that has cute kittens or what not in it. Or show you your favorite band's latest music video. Or if you have 25 minutes to kill, you may even call up your favorite episode of How I Met Your Mother. You do not have to dig out a DVD, or scan through your hard drive for it. Siri and your Apple TV does it for you.

And all I did was to combine four very simple ideas and technology together and you already have an amazing device. I am certain that the brilliant engineers at Apple can come up with something a little bit better than this but I'd like some credit for my very own version of Apple TV.