Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Little in Apple event to get publishers excited; Apple TV will be running iOS, but no new app store on the horizon

For publishers just trying to get their heads around mobile media applications, let alone tablet applications, the thought that Apple might introduce a new TV product that will accept media apps must have been a scary thought. But Steve Jobs, while introducing a new Apple TV, never mentioned applications for the big screen, and so media app developers can rest easy knowing that, for now, the iPhone and iPad will keep them busy enough.
Today's Apple media event centered on introducing a complete refresh of the iPod product line in time for the holiday shopping season. Apple CEO Steve Jobs did not disappoint in this area, introducing three new versions of the iPod shuffle, iPode nano, and iPod touch. Each has either a new design or feature set. For publishers, the iPod touch is the most important product because users can download apps from the iTunes app store. The new iPod touch will have a front facing camera in order to take advantage of Apple's new FaceTime feature, extending WiFi based calling even further. It is now only a matter of time before the iPad gets the same front-facing camera, as well.

Developers now have a date when the iPad will get its operating system update: November. It is then that the popular tablet will get multi-tasking, folders and (something new) wireless printing. Of course, thanks to Epson, both my iPhone and iPad already can print wirelessly, but it's good to see Apple will build this right into the OS. One thing Jobs didn't mention was whether the user would need a printer capable of doing, or if the device would interface with a home computer.

The "one more thing" moment was not much of a surprise: Apple will introduce a new version of its "hobby" product, the Apple TV. The old version costs $229 and was not much more than a DVR device. The new Apple TV will not have a hard drive and therefore won't be able to record shows and movies. Instead, Apple wants users to rent TV shows for 99 cents a piece, as well as first run movies for $4.99. Apple appears to be heading in the direction of having its customers rent content rather than own it. We'll see how consumers react to that.

The Apple TV will also allow you to view Netflix and YouTube content, just as many TVs and BluRay players have this capability built right in, as well.

But the big question was always "is this a new iOS device"? And the answer appears to be "kinda". While it may run the same operating system (or a variant of it) that is found in the iPhone and iPad, no mention today was made of creating a new Apple TV app store, or allowing third party apps to run on the device.

In this area, Apple has decided to be conservative. While Google touted its own television device's ability to run Android apps, Apple seems to be continuing to handicap its own TV product.

While Jobs said that thanks to a new version of AirTunes, which will now be called AirPlay, users will be able to stream videos from your iPhone or iPad to the Apple TV, Jobs did not say whether other apps will be allowed to have this ability.

Often Apple introduces new products and only shows off some of what it can do. For instance, the original iPhone contained some applications, but third party apps and the app store did not appear until one year later. Likewise, when the iPad was introduced, Apple said that its AV cable would only deliver content from the iPad to your TV from a select few applications. But developers were able to tap into the OS and add this capability to their apps so that now Netflix and other apps can use the AV cord to deliver video content to your TV.

It is possible that Apple eventually plans to open up its new TV product to third party developed apps, and that one day publishers who create media apps for the iPhone and iPad will be able to have those apps work on a TV device, as well. We'll see.