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Apple TV: Third time unlucky, Mr Jobs

Going down for the last time

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What is missing from this entire set-up is the relationship that broadcast operators and pay TV operators have with the viewer. That ability to cross advertise programming and introduce new channels. That’s not really here.

Also there are no bundled channels. Netflix is closest to achieving this, since it has a monthly payment coming off its clients' accounts and it has a list of their favorite movies on its web site. Later as it loads more and more TV series, Netflix could become like Apple, but with no exclusive hardware alliances.

If Amazon could magically include video on its Kindle, it would be a smash hit, but it’s simply not equipped for video due to the e-ink which makes reading fine and video not fine, and also because it mostly gets its books over a cellular network, which could not do this heavy HD video lifting. But that doesn’t rule out the Kindle as a video device for the not so near future.

The Apple TV offering requires that you actually have a TV or another device to stream the video to in order to watch it, whereas any device with a screen, such as the iPad, would have been the logical and ideal client for this directly, without it going through the Apple TV. Perhaps a client will be released for the iPad once the Apple TV has made a few sales. But if Apple doesn’t go this route, others will. Amazon Video can be viewed on TV sets directly as long as they have the internet extensions from Samsung, Sony and Panasonic.

Meanwhile we hear that Google's YouTube has also been in talks for several months with Hollywood movie studios about launching a streaming movie rentals service by the end of the year, says the Financial Times this week. Funnily enough Google is talking about films costing about $5 to rent. Surely this identical pricing to Apple TV is also no coincidence. And remember that Netflix customers (who pay as little as $9 a month) can already view a number of online films for no extra charge, which is a lot cheaper than $5.

As we said of Google, in its arrogance, it doesn’t realize that the future shape of TV in the US is being written by moves taken this year – a year when it is still estranged from Hollywood through persistent studio legal actions against YouTube. It needs to fix these now before it will get a movie deal and the same TV content deals, if it goes after them. And anyway Google has already experimented on YouTube with movie deals, and the way it was brought to market alongside YouTube meant few have been sold.

Of course the new movie deals, when accompanied with the planned Google TV box, and also $0.99 TV series rentals, might prove a tad more interesting to the average American. But Google is not quite at that stage yet.

Roku responded to the Apple announcement by slashing device prices to $60, $70, or $100, depending on whether it’s SD or HD or 1080p. Finally Sony needs a mention, announcing that it had renamed its Sony Online Services (SOLS) platform Qriocity, and says that it will take it up against iTunes globally.

It has VOD movies from 20th Century Fox, Lionsgate MGM, NBC Universal, Paramount Pictures, Sony Pictures, Walt Disney and Warner Brothers and Sony has now taken the new platform to France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK from the autumn, and will offer Music Unlimited powered by Qriocity, with millions of songs by year’s end. Sony says that over time, it will also add games and e-books to Qriocity. This is the network it should have built years ago, but it’s got the idea at last just in time for the online TV revolution.

As of now Qriocity’s movies can be seen by Internet-connected Bravia TVs, the newer Sony Blu-ray players. But once the entire thing can be seen though a window on the PlayStation 3 network (surely this will happen) it will also mean that video can be place-shifted to remote PSPs and potentially Sony Ericsson smartphones.

Sony says that in future Qriocity will be a service available through third party devices not just those built by Sony, but that we think it’s first port of call is Sony Ericsson. It does sound like Sony Connect all over again, but perhaps this time Sony can manage it without it breaking on the first day (Connect crashed on its first day) and it can at least get all of its divisions to talk about it, not just one. When Sony Connect launched it was like a news blackout compared to the way Apple gets its products written about, and hopefully it has learned from that. ®

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