AppTV: The Future of Television and Computing – An Update

Since I last wrote an article about AppTV (about 2 years ago) Apple, Google and Microsoft have placed general use applications (word processing, spreadsheets) on the cloud marking the beginning of the end of the Desktop Applications and software piracy era. Because they are free for the individual user they obviate the need for the pay-per-use model I had advocated. I’m still waiting, though, for a browser plugin that will enable me to start creating a rich media document by pressing edit and when I’m done, a save-to and a save-as button that will enable me to save my document in a cloud location of my choice in the format (PDF, doc etc) I desire. The beauty of the cloud model is that I don’t need to send documents by email anymore, just a link to its location!

In a few years there won’t be desktop PCs either, just screens – the TV screen, the personal data/media screen and the phone screen – all more or less interchangeable (apart from the mobility element – the TV will stay fixed to my wall!) With computing done on the cloud, it makes more sense for these devices to act as simple output (monitor) and data input devices (keyboard, touch, camera, remote for the TV) i.e. as encoders (input) and decoders (output) and to use a audio-video network to deliver content that is encoded or decoded by the producer or the consumer.

Digital TV on the other hand is still stuck in the package / a la carte / video-on-demand mode with subscribers still paying for a number of channels that they hardly ever watch. In the pay-per-use model that I proposed (pay only for the programs you watch) the viewer has two choices. One, pay for ad-free programming. Two, get free programming with highly targeted ads. In either case, the advertiser has a higher return on investment while the service provider still gets a monthly access fee. To offset the reduction in consumer fees, advertisers pay a higher premium which they would recover by discontinuing their ads in rarely (or never) watched time slots. The only ones who are going to lose are the people who make terrible TV shows and movies and isn’t that a good thing?

And Zilliontv closed down for reasons that are not entirely clear to me but apparently it had something to with rights and how they were planning to prioritize their on-demand programming. Other companies in the same space had a tough time, too. Clearly, changing the business and revenue model and getting content providers and service providers to agree is going to be a very difficult task if anyone were to try to implement what I propose but I’m hoping someone will find that sweet spot that will work well for every one involved especially the consumer.

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