Tuesday, April 3, 2012

How To Solve TV Now: Easy UI and Make It Accessible And Mobile

I set up a Slingbox for my uncle last night.  He’s an avid NBA and golfing fan.  We got an Apple TV hooked up to it and he’s able to use the SB to watch his videos and cable TV from anywhere.  Just about anywhere I hope because he travels a lot on business, especially, overseas.  He’s pretty happy about this.  He can keep with his golf games as well.  I know he’s big on cable news too.  All in all, the Slingbox is an incredible device.  I’ve wanted something like this since, well, forever.

But the Slingbox can only do so much.  It doesn't do more than offering an extension and convenience to whatever HDTV or other box setups you've got in your home.  And as great as it is, the Slingbox is last decade's innovation.  It's time for something new.

Now, I don’t know what people are talking about when they said that Steve Jobs cracked television when it came to digital and cloud deployment.  Most think it has something to do with Siri.  Maybe but it has to be more than that.  Siri would only be a part of the solution.

But I wonder if what Steve Jobs meant by figuring how television for Apple means nothing more than making what currently exists now easier to use and access for the user.  No more cables.  Anyone who can reduce the number of cables and plugs can really lay claim to figuring television. So, what else could there be that makes it easier for the user when it come to live or stored video?

Here are a few identified requirements for Apple, Google, or anyone else to lay claim that they’ve figured out television:

  • One remote or mobile device.  You can control 
  • “What would you like to do?” - this goes along with ease of use.  Being able to "tell" your TV what you want to do rather than having to go through a series of menus to do that would be key to all this.  
  • Access Anywhere - this is about mobile. Being able to access content at home, Starbucks, or even work. 
  • Easy and Clean UI - it shouldn't take three remotes, and going through a series of menus to get to what you want to do.  It should take more than a couple of seconds, not minutes.  And it should be so easy my mom could use it.  Let me back up a bit here:  it should be so easy even I can use it.  
  • Mobile - 
  • Live or later
  • Social Network And Privacy
  • Scalable

Does this have to be affordable?  It would be nice but I reckon it could be expensive. New hardware and all.  Probably even have to pay for a new HDTV.  However, having this service and carrying a premium could be worth all the trouble for folks who don’t want to have to deal with multiple cords, plugs, and cables.

One other thing that I like to see happen.  You know and I know that Apple would never allow any breaches in its ecosystem.  It’s iOS, iTunes, Apple TV, and Macs only.  But I like to see Google step up and release a Google TV app for competing mobile platforms and PCs.  Heck, if Amazon, Boxee, or Roku figures out TV, I like to see them do the same thing - allow access on not just the box but also on mobile and PC.  Charge for the app if need be. Slingbox charges $30 for an app.  We simply want something that works well to be everywhere.  For the companies involved, it not only allows a greater reach but shows your partners you’re doing everything you can to  help them expand their markets.

One other issue that I have, which I doubt Steve Jobs was thinking about is when I meant access anywhere, I really mean anywhere.  For instance, I’m in the US.  Which means I have access to Netflix.  Awesome right?  Except the problem with this is that when I travel, I no longer have access to that.  Nor does my NBA TV subscription work anymore.  I know the reasons behind it.  Distribution rights, piracy, etc.  Still, it’s insane, don’t you think?

For the moment, I think Apple is finalizing plans for its TV and has been very meticulous about it. Google’s approach has been to throw everything at the wall and see what sticks.  Maybe they'll figure it out or maybe it'll be someone else with a better approach with the right balance to content access.

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