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Thursday, March 18, 2010

TV--The Next Frontier

Arguably, the device really hasn't changed much in the last 30 years--since color made the screen. But change is happening. NY Times reports:

Google and Intel have teamed with Sony to develop a platform called Google TV to bring the Web into the living room through a new generation of televisions and set-top boxes.

And Tech Crunch opines on the expected Apple reaction:

As Nick Bilton points out, this Google TV would be based around the Android platform. This means that the key idea is likely to have third-party developers work on it to make applications built for a television set. That’s easier said than done, but Android’s open nature should yield some interesting results rather quickly.

Apple, meanwhile, is of course anything but open with regard to their devices. In fact, the Apple TV is entirely closed right now, as only Apple is able to modify its software (without hacking it, of course). I suspect that will change, following this revelation.

The idea of running iPhone-style applications on the Apple TV has long been a sexy one. Hell, people have even ported apps over to a TV screen to show how well it could work. The main problem with developing iPhone apps for the Apple TV seems to be resolution. With the iPhone (and iPod touch), Apple offers only one screen size/resolution, ensuring developers have an easy time making great-looking apps — while at the same time, making sure end users have a great experience.

But the iPad has already changed everything. With their new device, Apple has kept things as simple as possible by making iPhone apps scale up two times to work on the bigger display, but it’s still shows a willingness to move beyond the one screen size. Unfortunately, with the Apple TV, it can be attached to a screen that could be a huge variety of sizes, so it would be hard to control that.

Google doesn’t care about that because Android already runs on dozens of phones with different screen sizes. But Apple clearly cares about how apps look on its devices (so much so that the iPad itself was likely designed at a strange ratio simply to make scaling apps look as good as possible). So does that mean they start offering an actual Apple TV (as in a screen)?Rumors of that have been around for a long time. Or maybe they black-box apps to a certain resolution — similar to what they’re doing on the iPad when an app isn’t scaled up?

Who knows. But what I do know is that upon hearing this Google TV news, the Apple TV became a little less of a “hobby” yesterday.

Aside from calling it a hobby, Steve Jobs haseferred to the Apple TV as being a potential “fourth leg” of a chair Apple is building. Leg one is the Mac, leg two is the iPod, leg three is the iPhone, and Jobs had hoped the Apple TV would complete the chair one day. But it seems clear now that he thinks the iPad could be the fourth leg instead.


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