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Web meets TV

Apple TV set top boxThe future of TVs is becoming clearer after the announcement of competing services from Google and Apple – who have moved from being partners to competing against each other in an increasing number of fields. The world’s largest consumer electronics fair, the IFA, also heard the announcement of the Qriocity from Sony. The common theme is that music and video content is now what will dictate the success of devices, and each of these devices must be able to connect to the web and to each other.

Apple have just announced their Apple TV which is a tiny new set-top-box that plugs into the TV and allows streaming download of TV shows and movies from the Internet. It really is tiny and has the same heart as the iPhone and iPod/iPad products. In fact, Apple TV has existed for a few years now, but hasn’t gained much traction. The latest version is smaller, cheaper and better, but will it be enough to change the way we watch TV?

One significant new feature of the latest Apple TV is that it can stream content from your PC, or even from your iPhone. On your TV, you can watch slideshows of your photos that are stored on your PC, and if you think about it, the best place to see photos on the largest, clearest display you have in the house, is your TV. As a population, we all love our TV’s.

Unfortunately, the Apple TV doesn’t include a web browser. Personally I’d love the ability to have a decent web browser integrated into my TV and surely this should have been easy for Apple to achieve. Instead, they have handed Google a gift. Google TV has got the Google Chrome web browser built in (ironically this web browser has largely been developed by Apple, who now must be rather sick that Google are using it to compete with them).

Apple seem to have missed a huge opportunity. By not allowing developers to create apps for the Apple TV they are making the Apple TV a closed device and hence, have missed the opportunity of extending your TV watching experience into entirely new and un-imagined possibilities. Yet, Apple are the people who pioneered third party app development for the iPhone and iPods, which accounts for their huge success. This is doubly odd, given that the iPhone, and now the much larger iPad, are great games devices. So why haven’t they enabled the Apple TV to have apps, a web browser or games? Maybe it will come?

Google TV, on the other hand isn’t an actual device, but just operating software for manufacturers of their devices or TVs. It’s based on Android and crucially, it will offer support for a wide range of third party apps as well as including a very good web browser.

Remember back to the early days of the Windows operating system. In the early 80s even though Microsoft had an inferior product to the Apple Mac, they licensed it to other companies resulting in their total world domination of the PC market, pushing Apple’s market share down to the current sub 10%.

With this new emerging market, Apple will only sell you the Apple TV device, whereas, Google TV will be licensed to a wide range of companies that will create both set-top-boxes and integrate the experience into the TV directly. Have Apple not learnt anything from history?

To add to the mix, Sony have announced a competing service, with the unusual name of Qriocity. This will have a similar online store of TV and movie content that you can stream to your TV. Even Amazon are getting in on the game by offering streaming TV and movies for 99cents from their website. Both of these are only currently available in the US. Apple TV streaming will initially be available in the US, UK and Germany as well as a few other key countries

So what is the future of your TV?
• In the not too distant future it will all be built into your TV. In the short term, until you upgrade your TV, you will need a set-top-box to bring these services to your existing TV.
• It will include hard disc recording of programmes with pause and rewind of live TV. In other words all the functions of a PVR (personal video recorder).
• An integrated web browser will be a full web browser, not some crippled or clunky half-browser.
• It will include a slick integrated program guide, with one-click recording of TV programmes and series.
• Streaming of media from your PC, which means you can play movies from your PC, play your music from your PC or watch slideshows of photos stored on your PC
• It will probably be based on the Google Android operating system, or some derivative of.

What does this mean for DVD sales?
Well it’s the end, or at least the beginning of the end. Just as music download and online purchases have stunted sales of CDs, the same will happen for commercial movies and DVDs.

What does this mean for your home made movies and slideshows?
These devices will be a great way of watching your own home-made movies or slideshow on TV, e.g. ones you’ve created with your Magix Movie Edit Pro or Magix PhotoStory. Either you can stream direct from your PC to your TV or upload them to your website or websites such as YouTube and Vimeo, (all of these devices can watch YouTube movies without using a web browser). Not only can you watch your own movies and slideshows this way, but anyone else with an Apple or Google TV can also watch your movies and slideshows on their TVs.

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