How an App Store Could Revolutionize the TV Industry

Did I get out of the television industry just in time or could my two worlds… that of new media and traditional media… be coming together in an Apple App Store? I’ll be watching the development of Apple TV very closely but in the meantime, I’ll stand by one of the very first blog posts I ever wrote “content is King” (or as someone pointed out… Queen… or Emperor… or whatever dictator name you feel appropriate to insert)

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This week’s media event could finally confirm (or scuttle) rumors of a new Apple TV device. If it’s based on iOS 4, like many pundits believe, there’s strong potential for this device to feature its own App Store. If such a future came to fruition, Apple could be facing another round of tough negotiations with content producers like it faced when it introduced the world to digital music and movie downloads. If it’s successful though, Apple could revolutionize the television content marketplace.

The Current Marketplace

Consider how you currently watch TV, which could be through broadcast or cable television. If you watch cable, you pay a fee to a provider (like AT&T), which allows you to see certain channels based on your subscription (though that model doesn’t seem to be panning out so well anymore). The providers pay a portion of your subscription fees directly to the networks (an average of about 26 cents per channel). Networks make additional money with the ads they run on their channels as well. If a network doesn’t show ads, you can expect they charge the cable provider substantially more than 26 cents per channel, and the opposite is true if they show an average amount of ads. This is all relative and pretty much a standard business model.

How Apple Could Shake Things Up

With the introduction of the App Store, we’re starting to see how some industries are shaking up the status quo. For instance, consider the magazine industry. Wired now provides its app directly to consumers, and can sell a digital version of its magazine at a comparable price (per issue) to the newsstand price. Yet, without having to incur the printing costs behind it, and even while giving Apple 30 percent of the revenue, Wired pockets a lucrative profit.

Can the same model work for the television industry? Network providers already provide their content through iTunes, and, through negotiation, have arranged to sell content at $2-$3 per episode. Rumors of 99-cent TV shows have been rampant but unfulfilled, simply because of the tough negotiations required to make it happen. Could the solution be to simply bring an App Store directly to the TV? If so, similar to the Hulu or Netflix app, a network provider like HGTV (s sni) could provide its own app for free and charge within for in-app content, like episodes of a show. If it wanted to provide streaming content of the past few episodes for free, it could do so. As long as it approves of the 70/30 profit split with Apple, it would maintain a lot more control over its content and pricing. The networks would be happy, and Apple would be happy. Networks could still run ads as they wished and earn even more profit.

Who would stand to lose from this? At the outset, nobody, but if such a solution were to become mainstream, then cable providers could begin to see a dip in subscriptions. Why would most consumers pay a monthly fee of $30 to over $100 if they only want to watch a certain show or a certain network? Instead of paying for needless extra content that consumers never watch (based on their own viewing habits), they can pay for content that matters to them. The providers are aware of this, which is why many of them also provide internet service (think about Verizon, Comcast (c cmcsa) and AT&T).


Did Skype disappear from your iPhone? There’s an app for that!

This shows you how many apps I have… I didn’t even notice this app was gone. Now of course I must find out if it’s back. Don’t you just love how technology can make you go get something you didn’t even know you wanted?

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This is odd. Skype, which has offered an iPhone application for quite a while and recently released a version that gives users the ability to make calls over 3G, has vanished from the App Store. This is especially strange because Skype was recently featured on stage during the debut of iPhone’s OS 4.0, which will allow for the application to run in the background. We reached out to Skype about this and were told that they’re currently investigating:

We’re not seeing the Skype app in the App store. We’re very eager to get to the bottom of this, and I can tell you this has nothing to do with our Verizon deal. The Skype for iPhone app and the Skype Mobile app on Verizon Wireless phones have co-existed.

Update: Skype says that this is due to the fact that they just uploaded a new version of Skype for iPhone 4.0 which had “some difficulties” and that they’re working to fix it:

Today, Skype just submitted a new version of its iOS4 build to Apple. In the process we encountered some difficulties. Skype will work quickly to get its current Skype for iPhone app back up as soon as possible.”

There’s still a page on Skype’s official site that details the application’s features and doesn’t give any indication that the application is being killed off. But Skype’s mobile site oddly omits any mention of it — it only talks about BlackBerry and Android devices from Verizon. We’ll update as we learn more.

Thanks to Will Shanklin for the tip


SAY WHAT?!?!? A hack attack on iTunes accounts? DANG!

Apple says iTunes Store hack damage minimal

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Apple now admits 400 iTunes accounts were hacked and used by a Vietnamese developer, Thuat Nguyen, to push his iPhone apps to best seller status over the weekend. But here is the zinger: Apple is saying it was no big deal. Four hundred accounts equals 0.0003 percent of the over 150 million iTunes account holders, Apple points out.

The downplaying of the hack comes as little consolation to many who believed Apple’s walled garden would offer protection from rogue developers and hackers. After all, Apple runs a very tight ship when it comes to the App Store. (See related: “Apple’s iPhone App Fraud: Where Were the App Police?“)

Reports emerged on Sunday that Nguyen gamed the App Store ratings in the Books category, by purchasing his own apps using hacked iTunes accounts. At one point, the developer’s apps occupied 42 of the top 50 apps sold in the Books section, and users reported purchases of up to $500 with their accounts.

Nguyen’s apps had been removed from the App Store late as of Sunday, because he “violat(ed) the developer Program License Agreement, including fraudulent purchase patterns,” Apple said. The company also claims that its iTunes servers were not compromised in any way.

When short, insecure passwords for iTunes accounts are used, users leave themselves open to hackers guessing their credentials. Compromised accounts are also nothing new: on the forums of the MacRumors site, there are dozens of replies in threads dating back from 2008 reporting such problems.


Looking to waste time, money and patience? There’s an app for that! LOL!!!

Top 7 Mobile Apps That Need to Die via Advertising Age.

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Somewhere in the veritable ocean that is Apple’s prolific App Store (and increasingly, Google’s Android Market), smartphone addicts can find a free or nominally priced mobile software to do just about anything — from ordering lunch at Chipotle to identifying a song playing at a bar and instantly downloading it to auto-tuning your own singing voice to mimic the electro stylings of rapper T-Pain.

Still, somewhere among the more than hundreds of thousands of third-party apps available in the App Store alone, there are bound to be a proportionate number of duds. Here are seven of the Wild Wild Web’s more egregious offenses against your productivity (and, more than likely, your social life).

Pocket Heat, 99 cents

Stuck in a cold office or trapped in an abysmal crevice somewhere in the Himalayas? Just fire up this handy space-heater button, and before you know it the tingle of disappointment and shame will be indistinguishable from the actual heat waves you were hoping for. And best of all, your battery will last way longer (just lay off the 3G).

iLickit-Crazy Lick Game, $1.99

If you think that an app built on the notion of actually licking your $400 smartphone is juvenile or unhygienic or generally disgusting, you’re actually wrong. The makers of the all-too-real “iLickit-Crazy Lick Game,” which encourages users to actually lick (with their tongues) “plates” of virtual food remnants served to them by an ornery, tech-challenged old Grandma — but not before sterilizing their iPhone screens with alcohol or covering them with saran wrap. Because that’s obviously the proper, civilized way to do it. Duh.

Hold On!, 99 cents

This app proves that despite the astounding technology that converged to create the iPhone and iPad, and myriad of potential uses for constructive good both offer, it really is the simple, stupid things in life we delight in the most. For less than a dollar, you can see how long you can keep your sweaty finger planted on a single button in the middle of an unsettling red screen. A handy timer will keep record of your “achievement” for posterity, and your time will be measured against other users’. And that’s about it. The point? Well, one user/reviewer put it best: “The point of this game is to hold a freakin’ button until … you actually have a life.” Sounds about right.

Metal Detector, free

Say you can’t find your keys, but you know they are somewhere within a 2-inch radius of you. Thank goodness for your Droid! With one of several creatively dubbed “Metal Detector” apps, you can use Droid’s compass hardware to help aid your mini-search. Sure, you have to be virtually touching the metal item you’re looking for in order for the app to react to it, which arguably renders its utility null and void, but it’s one of the only remaining tricks “Droid does” that the iPhone “can’t.” (Or “wont.” Or “can’t be bothered to” because it’s completely pointless. Whatever.)

Cell Phone Tracker Pro, 99 cents

Not sure who should be more ashamed in this scenario: the person who so underestimates his/her friends’ intelligence as to run this half-baked GPS con job, or the hapless, wide-eyed friends who fall for it. Playing off Americans’ born and bred fear of Big Brother (as well our acute voyeurism), this app promises, with tongue firmly planted in cheek, to locate any cellphone’s location on planet Earth using just the phone number itself. The idea seems to be that in demonstrating this app to your dimmer friends, you offer to use one of their numbers to prove it actually works. When the GPS-locator zeroes in on your general location (which, as a crucial point of apparently overlooked fact, is their general location, too), “oohs” and “aahs” are supposed to ensue. But if the Cell Phone Tracker Pro’s overwhelmingly negative reviews on iTunes are any indication, they probably won’t.