What will it take to get the Apple TV out of the 'hobby' division?
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What will it take to get the Apple TV out of the 'hobby' division?

In a "Bloomberg" analysis (http://macte.ch/2Rk4z), Mark Milian notes that Apple, Google and Roku see an untapped market in set-top boxes that deliver online entertainment to the television, but they've yet to make a major impact.

Still, the overall market for such devices, which compete with hardware from cable and satellite TV operators, is growing. Research firm IHS ISuppli (www.isuppli.com) said sales of these set-top boxes rose 39% last year to 8.6 million units globally. However, Applesold 32 million iPads in fiscal 2011, its second year on the market. The company sold around 2.8 million Apple TVs during the same span, and so far has sold four million of the devices this fiscal year.

Milian notes that technology executives and analysts say that if these boxes could just offer more cable programming, then they could succeed. On the other hand, Google TV works with Dish Network’s paid TV service, but IHS ISuppli research suggests it hasn’t helped sales of the device.

Newer TVs have Internet functions built in, and if cable companies play ball, they could eliminate the need for separate boxes entirely, Ross Rubin, an independent analyst at Reticle Research, told "Bloomberg." That would certainly spur sales of the Apple TV (and Apple is reportedly working to make this happen). However, that alone won't be enough to move the device out of the "hobby" category (as Apple describes it) nor provide enough impetus for most people to spring for an Apple-branded HDTV should the rumored "iTV" ever actually emerge.

What is needed is a la carte programming, as I've mentioned before. With all the licensing restrictions and the retro thinking of the major networks, this may not happen for a while, but it will happen eventually.

Apple already offers some TV programs as subscriptions via iTunes, allowing you to buy both single episodes and entire seasons. The problem is that you usually have to wait for the show to be broadcast before it's available. And, isome cases, shows aren't available until the entire season has aired.

Eventually, I think we'll have channels, or perhaps individual shows, offered as, for lack of a better word, "apps" in an Apple TV/iTV "app store." After all most folks I know are tired of paying for cable/satellite bundles that include dozens, if not hundreds of stations they care nothing about. Before this a la carte world arrives, however, I think we'll see Apple move to live streaming of the programming, just like customers get through their cable/satellite provider.

A couple of years ago there were rumors of an iTunes plan with unlimited access to a selection of TV programming for about $30 a month. That's probably not going to happen, but more customized TV viewing is coming.

The only question is when.

To speed along the process you need to check out this web site: : tvalacarte.org , which promotes a "pick your own programming" movement.

-- Dennis Sellers


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