Is Apple using your TV to enter your house?

Apple TV with HomeKit

With the acquisition of the NEST, Google found a way to enter your home. The NEST could become a platform and a future hub for a connected or smart house. Apple did not have such an entry point yet, but might have found one. The latest beta-release of the Apple TV software includes support for HomeKit.

The Apple TV will use CloudKit to store and access the necessary information of the devices and iCloud Keychain to store paired keys making it possible to remotely access your Philips Hue lights from the office or any other device that supports HomeKit and is connected to the Apple TV.

This could boost the development of a whole new range of connected devices for the smart home. The question now is whether Apple is going to develop these new products as well.

Sony to sign a deal with Viacom for its cloud-based TV service

Sony strikes deal with Viacom

Sony announced the service early this year at the CES promising a combination of live television, on demand and DVR. But no cloud without good content and good content is rather difficult to obtain. So where others have failed (Intel, Google) or are still working on it (no news about the Apple TV yesterday), Sony seems to have found a way to do business by striking a deal with Viacom. Sony will be allowed to distribute 22 of the Viacom channels over the internet, including popular channels like Comedy Central, MTV, Nickelodeon.

Although it looks like a breakthrough, the only new thing here is the ability to access traditional lineair channels over IP and therefore on other devices than the TV set and the (technical) possibility to sell contracts anywhere in the world. However, it still will be (mostly) linear TV and Sony might encounter problems in countries where these Viacom channels are already being distributed by traditional cable companies.

Furthermore, one of the biggest reasons Netflix is so extremely popular has to do with the fact that they provide on demand content only. Somehow people seem to like this, so it has to be seen if the new Sony service is something that will attract the coach potatoes attention.

New Apple TV software will make it more like Chromecast

Apple TV

According to AllthingsD Apple will release a new version of their TV product, but it will only a new version of the software. That is why it will be released next week (September 18), together with the release of iOS7. The biggest change is to make the Apple TV act more like Chromecast in the sense that it is no longer needed to download the content to your mobile device and stream it to the Apple TV but the content will stream directly from the cloud to a Apple TV using Apple’s AirPlay.

 

TV app Vidora is moving into the right direction of the new TV experience

Vidora

Forget the Smart TV, even forget the set-top box, the future of TV is mobile. Previously dubbed the second screen, your mobile device is actually the primary screen. Or at least it should be. It is yours, it is personal, it is connected and it contains already a lot of personal data. So the easiest way to find and select streaming content and share and discuss this with others would be via your tablet or smartphone. The only thing that one could need is another device for is actually watching the content. A mobile device might just have too small a screen or too bad a sound quality to fully experience the broadcast. But if the stream could be pushed to a bigger screen, that problem would be solved too. So why is there no such app. Well, actually there is (more or less). Meet Vidora.

Vidora is an iPad app that helps to discover video content (free and premium like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime) and allows you to push it to a TV screen using the Apple TV Airplay.

Truth be told, Vidora still needs Apple TV and it does not work (yet) for other devices but on the other hand with Miracast and Chromecast on the market now there are some alternative technologies.

Apple buys video recommendation app Matcha.tv

Matcha TV

All of a sudden the app disappeared from the App Store and the website went blank. As it turns out, because Matcha.tv had been acquired by Apple. According to VentureBeat for a small amount (between USD 1 and USD 1,5 million.

Matcha.tv was one the iOS apps one could use to discover TV content based on a wide variaty of sources (from Comcast to Hulu, from Amazon to iTunes) and was ranked amongst the top 15 entertainment apps in the Apple App Store.

Every move of Apple related to TV remains interesting as the company is still unclear about their real ambitions in this field. They have their Apple TV set-top box that does get software updates and they have sold well over 13 million devices so far. Apple fanboys and girls have been hoping for a big push of a TV product or even a TV screen for some years now but Cupertino stays silent.

Update for Apple TV on its way including iTunes Radio, Conference Room and one-tap set-up

Apple TV

Apple’s hobby project that remains to be mysterious in the way that it seems not to be a focus product but despite that has a growing number of owners (Apple sold over 13 million units so far) is getting new features. At least, that is what the new Apple TV 5.4 beta 3 shows.

To begin with, the new version will include iTunes Radio. One could argue why they did not include it in the first place (legal reasons?), but no matter the reason, you will be able to select your music from your TV any time soon.

Connecting your iDevice with your TV is also getting more easy. With the introduction of the one-tap set-up all you have to do is, well, tap once and you are good. Although apparently this will only work for the latest iPhones and iPads as it needs Bluetooth 4.0 (low-energy Bluetooth) to make this happen.

The new Conference Room feature is a Display mode to be used in a conference room. Apparently Apple is expecting a lot of office users or already knows this from looking into their customer base.

Oh, and one more thing, subtitles will be adjustable in the new version. A very welcoming feature as nothing can be more irritating and distracting than a subtitle that is out of sync.

Google’s new take on TV: Chromecast

Google Chromecast

Google seems to be determined to play a role in the changing world of television. Already the Android based Google TV platform is used by a number of hardware manufacturers like Sony and LG and there are a lot of Android based HDMI sticks that turn your “dumb” TV into a Smart TV.

And then there was the Nexus Q, the failed attempt to bring a Google device in the living room to compete with products like Apple TV.

After the acquisition of Motorola, there was hope that Google would come up with a better set-top box, especially since Motorola had a large set-top box unit, but that was quickly sold to Arris after the acquisition.

Instead of a set-top box, Google is introducing a HDMI-dongle dubbed Chromecast. With Chromecast you can easily stream content selected from your Android or iOS device to your television screen. It does not stream through your mobile device like Apple’s AirPlay, but the device connects to the indicated service through WiFi itself.

Chromecast might seem like a minor development for Google, but it could be part of bigger development. In the past, mobile devices where called the second screen as the television was supposed to be the first screen. This television was to become Smart or should get a set-top box connected to it to act smart. But more and more one can see evidence now that the mobile device is actually the first screen. It is used for discovering streaming content, sharing it, discussing it and even for watching streaming content. Obviously watching your favorite tv show on a big screen is a much better experience, so sometimes one needs a way to stream the content to bigger screen. Enter Chromecast. Based on the same idea as Apple’s AirPlay and other competitors like Flex, Google now offers a way to stream content selected from a mobile device (or even laptop) to the big screen. No longer that screen needs to be smart and no extra remote or keyboard is needed. Just WiFi and the app on your mobile device.

The Chromecast dongle will cost USD 35 and will support Netflix, Google Play and YouTube to begin with, with more services to follow. And thanks to the integration with the Chrome browser (mirror a tab through what Google calls Tab Casting), anything that can be streamed there will also be available through Chromecast on your television.

“Amazon will launch a Kindle TV set-top box”

Kindle TV

According to Businessweek, Amazon is getting ready to launch a streaming media device. The set-top box would allow users to access the content library of Amazon (Amazon Instant Video and Amazon Prime) and the suggestion was made that the box could be  named Kindle TV.

In a way it does make sense that Amazon is coming with dedicated hardware. Microsoft has its Xbox, Google has Google TV en Apple is still selling a lot of Apple TV’s. And with the Kindle, Amazon has shown that it can build hardware and that they feel that having own hardware is vital to ensure customers enjoying your product. However, there they do not have a very impressive library. And without that, no service is going to fly. Luckily Amazon knows this and is currently testing 14 different new episode of which at least one of them will become a full show.

Next to that, I think there is still a big chance that smartphones and tablets will take could be the main device for discovering video content and streaming it to a bigger screen. In that case, Amazon can still call it Kindle TV, but all they have to do is to add the feature to their Kindle.

 

Illustration by Tom Cheredar

Brand new Hulu Plus app for Apple TV

New Hulu Plus app for Apple TV

As Hulu states in a blog post, they redesigned Hulu Plus from the ground up to ensure an even better user experience. Most important improvement is the addition of several categories (TV, Movies, Kids, Latino and Search) to help you find content even faster. In every category you will find new shows and shows you have already watched. The shows you like are located in the “Shows You Watch” tray.

Next to the better search and discovery, the controls have been improved. A simple push om the “Play” button will start the latest episode of a show you have selected. So no more scrolling there. During the show, you only have to hold down the “Select” button until Subtitles and Audio appears to turn on captions.

So download the app and let us know if it is really a big improvement.

Second Screen company TunedIn acquired by traditional publisher Axel Springer

TunedIn

Berlin based TunedIn, a Social TV app that facilitates social discovery as a basis for selecting streaming video  has been acquired by the traditional publishing company Axel Springer. The German publishing mogul was already working with TunedIn before the acquisition, so the take-over was not a complete surprise.

TunedIn will probably combined with another acquisition Axel Springer  did a year ago when they took over recommendation technology APRICO from Philips to strenghten their Axel Springer Digital TV Guide that already includes Watchmi – Personal TV from TV DIGITAL.

It is to be expected to see more of these kind of acquisitions in the near future. It seems there is a run for TV check-in services / Social TV discovery apps. GetGlue, Dijit, Viggle Miso, but also a platform like Vinson that was (re)launched yesterday in Barcelona are gaining momentum. Especially now Samsung is not only expanding in hardware with their HomeSync but also in apps with TV Discovery, a new Xbox that is almost there and of course Apple’s TV hobby Apple TV or iTV will show tight integration of mobile devices, apps and a big screen. More and more, the intelligence seems to be in the mobile device leaving the “Smart TV” as a pretty “dumb” but excellent display.