Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Apple’s TV Remote of the Future? It’s Already Here, In Your Hands.

It’s possible that, one day, Tim Cook will stand up onstage and show off a “real” Apple TV set — an integrated box/screen/entertainment device  — that will replace whatever’s sitting in your living room now.

Another possibility: Over time, Apple simply builds an Apple TV set right in front of us, in bits and pieces — so slowly that we don’t really notice it.

Take the remote, for instance. PatentlyApple has its hands on an Apple application for an “advanced TV remote” that would offer some cool features. Like the ability to automatically scan your other devices and figure out the right code to control them, instead of requiring users to use a combination of manuals and trial and error.

At least as important is that, while Apple’s patent, filed back in 2010, could be a standalone device, the application makes it seem much more likely that users will use their iPhones, iPods or iPads to control their TVs.

Which makes sense, because Apple is already offering a “Remote” iOS app that handles some basic functions for its existing Apple TV. That is: There’s a good chance you’re just a download away from owning a bona-fide Apple TV remote already.

This kind of incremental building may be even more important on the content side, which is the real key to an Apple TV: If it’s simply a very nice screen that offers the same content choices that TV viewers already have, then it’s just a very nice screen. And for years, Apple has been making attempts to wrangle different TV choices, at different price points, without much success.

But instead of one grand, sweeping video package, Apple may end up just cobbling together an array of offerings, piece by piece.

To wit: The latest refresh of Apple TV didn’t offer any new content, but it did make it easier for Apple users to buy the content that’s already there. Anyone with an iTunes account can subscribe to Netflix, and soon, Major League Baseball’s MLB.TV service, directly from Apple, without having to pull out a credit card again.

Netflix + iTunes + baseball games won’t make up a full suite of programming choices for most people. But now that Reed Hastings and Bob Bowman have agreed to let Tim Cook handle their billing for them, more media moguls will likely follow in their footsteps. Get enough of them in there, and you could end up with something really compelling.

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