Sunday, March 11, 2012


The iPad is naturally generating a lot of buzz around the internet in the last week.  Most of it's been pretty positive, with the standard regiment of malcontents deciding it was "disappointing" or "underwhelming" for whatever reason.  And that's the point... I don't think I've heard anyone adequately explain what it was they were expecting that they didn't get.  There was just no outlandish surprises.  Oh, well...

Announced alongside the iPad was a refreshed TV, bringing 1080p support and a new UI-  it was nothing groundbreaking, but anyone that was expecting something more during an iPad event was deluding themselves.  Many argued that Apple wouldn't announce another product during the event, but the more I thought about the way Apple has been positioning AirPlay connectivity since iOS5 came out, it really made sense with the iPad's 2x resolution to both start delivering iTunes movies and TV shows at 1080p resolution, as well as release an TV which could push AirPlay from your iPad at the best possible resolution.

Here again we had lots of complaints, on one hand you have people surprised/disappointed that Apple's 1080p isn't BluRay quality.

Well... DUH!

But the other complaint is one we've hit twice in a row now- TV appStore.  I have to admit that when this rumour cropped up before the announcement of the TV2, I was onboard.  Heck, I was even planning with a friend of mine to start a weekly TV podcast.  But it was not to be then, and there was absolutely no mention of it last week.

I've thought about it a bit this week and I've come to a conclusion- it ain't gonna happen.  Sorry.  Nope.

Thinking about it in retrospect, it was clear when Apple launched the TV2 at Macworld in 2008, and the refresh at last week's iPad event sealed the deal.

Why am I so sure?

It comes down to two things-  First, storage.

When Apple launched the TV2, they removed the bulk of the internal storage from the original version.  Gone were the 40 or 160GB internal drives that had to be synched with a computer on your local home network.  In their place in the tiny shell of the TV2 was 8GB of flash memory.  Enough storage to buffer streaming of a movie or two, and that's it.  We haven't heard how much internal flash memory lives in the new TV, but I guarantee you it's not much more than 8GB.

If Apple were to launch an appStore for the TV, where does the user store all these apps?  A couple of good sized games or applications, and your going to be running out of space.  Especially if you consider the TV MUST keep a certain amount of that flash memory available for media streaming.  There's just no room to be downloading any reasonable amount of apps in the TVs current form factor.

And the second nail in the coffin?  The processor.

Apple updated the TV with an A5 processor.   But it wasn't the dual-core A5X with quad-core GPU that Apple put into the new iPad.  Heck, it wasn't even the dual-core A5 they put into last fall's iPhone4S.  It was an all new single-core A5, beefed up specifically to give the TV enough horsepower to decode h.264 using the High or Main profile [thanks, ars technica] at up to 25Mbps.  So what does this tell us?  If Apple had any intention to giving the TV access to an appStore, saddling it with this single-core A5 chip makes no sense at all.  It would make it already less powerful than the iPhone4, perhaps even less powerful than the 2009 iPhone3GS at some tasks.  No, this device has been specially tuned to do one thing and one thing well- media streaming.

And really, what's Apple's motivation for putting an appStore on a device that costs $99, and potentially poaching sales of vastly more profitable iPhones, iPodTouches, and iPads.  There is none.

So what's the deal?  Well, it all comes back to AirPlay.  Apple sees the TV as the widget to get your stuff from all your Apple gear onto your big screen.  That's it.  It's that simple.  If you want apps on your TV, then you can do that... by pushing them from your iOS device, and later this year with your Mac running Mountain Lion.  By doing this, Apple eliminates all the interface problems that would have come from a straight up appStore for TV.  No new multi-touch remote, no alternate versions of apps for TVs interface.  Just all the apps on your Mac or iOS device... on your TV.

So where does this leave us?  Well, I do think we'll see customized functionality for TV.  Apple is already showing us what this will look like with the new interface.  But it won't be apps we're downloading, but CHANNELS, much like the VIMEO or MLB or NETFLIX apps that come preinstalled on the new TV now.  Apps like this are very small, basically shells for displaying content streamed from the net.  So the storage constraints won't be an issue.  And it leaves the TV processor to do what it does best, stream media.

So if you have no interest in sports, you can delete all those apps from the interface, and hopefully [should networks finally come to their senses] be able to download HBOGO, or HULU, or CBS, or NICKELODEON or whatever.  Essentially creating your own cable box with only the channels you're interested in subscribing to.

So, sorry, no TV appStore.

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