I recently wrote about Social TV -- what we call it when people use social media like Facebook and Twitter to augment the TV experience. There were some doubters (there always are).
If you need proof that people are using social media to make TV more engaging, then look no further than this week's MTV VMA awards. Though everyone seemed to be talking about Kanye West, the real trendsetter of the evening was Twitter.
From the show's start to the finish, 1.3 million Tweets related to the VMAs were posted. The traffic to Twitter tripled during this rush. More interesting, the Twitter phenomenon was almost exclusively real-time, meaning that although there were another 700k posts that evening and into the next morning, but most of the heat came during the event as people in attendance and people watching reacted in real-time to what they were experiencing and feeling.
This is the boon linear TV has been waiting for: imagine, a way to get people to watch TV at the same time as everyone else -- because if they don't, they'll miss the whole Tweet-party! That's what my Forrester report on Social TV was about, and I thank the VMA viewers for proving my point.
I was in the middle of an ICTC (my new acronym for InterContinental Telepresence Conference) when I got an urgent message from Brian Chen at Wired News. Without any announcement, it seems, Apple had cut the price of its 160 GB Apple TV to $229, dropping the smaller model altogether. What did this mean?
I've been following the Apple TV since its announcement 2.5 years ago. I bought one of the first, and I spent hundreds of dollars on TV shows testing it (I have all the episodes of Battlestar Galactica, seasons 1, 2, 3; and you don't). That said, I haven't used the Apple TV in months, even after I hacked it using Boxee. It's because the Apple TV doesn't make watching top shows easy enough to compete with cable, Hulu, and Netflix.
Brian wrote a very solid piece in Wired News yesterday, click here to see the article. He managed to get in a lot of the big picture points I raised, which is always hard to do since I go there so quickly and barely pause to breathe. The point is this: The Apple TV is on its way out.
You've got to be hating life if you're a videocamera maker like Sony or Kodak and you've just been bested yet again. First, it was the immensely successful Flip video cameras that sold more than 2 million devices without a significant brand name simply because the camera was so darn easy to use. ( Personal anecdote, I recently spent a day at a major CE maker with a group of industry analysts -- they let us try their new Flip camera competitor and one of the smartest guys in the room couldn't figure out how to turn it on. Said a nearby analyst: "Hmmm, no wonder Flip beat them to this market.")
Now the game just got more complicated because Apple has decided to add video camera capability not to the iPod Touch line, but to its Nano iPods. Pause for reverential awe. This was a brilliant move. (see Wired's take on it here).
Not only because it hits Flip in a sensitive spot -- right in the high school and college market where Flip was such a hit -- but because it further disrupts the videocamera market, opening it to more innovation and rapid change. You no longer have the three tiers of videocameras (disc or tape storage, digital decent, and then your lousy phone camera), instead, you have a fourth competitor. A personal media device that is now capable of actual personal media. Oh, and did I mention it's made by Apple? Right, just checking.
Video on Demand (VOD) has been a disappointment. As offered by most cable systems, video on demand should have made it easier for you to rent movies for home viewing than Blockbuster or Hollywood ever could because you never have to leave the house to get a VOD movie. But most VOD systems have failed to delight customers for reasons I won't get into right now other than to say that even if the movie selection is decent, the interface to find the movies is terrible. So most people don't use VOD.
Apple saw this opportunity and assumed its iTunes music business could easily extend into video, first with a pay-per-download model (one I first wrote about in 2007, explaining why it would not work -- I was right), and eventually with a VOD model, once the content owners could see their way to taking that plunge. But the iTunes VOD business relies on people buying Apple devices -- something millions of people do -- and people wanting to watch movies on those devices -- sadly, something far fewer people do.
This has caused me to encourage Apple to port its iTunes video service to non-Apple devices that are connected to the TV. I wrote about this a few times recently, explaining that video services need to connect to the TV to have a chance and that LG and Samsung Blu-ray players (and more recenlty, connected TVs) were doing that quite well. It would be a natural fit for iTunes to deliver content to those devices. But, alas, that's not how Apple rolls, as the Cupertino company prefers to make its money from high-margin devices.