Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Thoughts on Apple TV, False Restrictions, and Changing Technology

One of the Christmas presents unwrapped in my household on Christmas morning this year was a brand new Apple TV. For those of you who might not know what that is, head on over here to find out. Back? Good. I got the Apple TV mainly because I've bought in to so much of the rest of the Apple environment, it finally seemed like a good idea. I can throw my iPad screen on to my TV through it, play my entire music library on my nice surround speakers, look at my photo collection, watch YouTube, Netflix, and Vimeo . . . All for under $100.

My thoughts, now that I've used it some?

Mainly frustration. Don't get me wrong--it does what I thought it would do, and it does that well. It's easy to use, and I think it's been worth the investment. No, what's frustrating is what I feel like it should be able to do, but can't--due to licensing issues in today's entertainment environment.

At this point, there is no real difference between phone, television, and internet. It's all digital. It's all nothing more than a bunch of 0s and 1s transmitted over cables or through the air. You might buy it from your phone company or your cable company, but the actual thing they're selling is identical. Digital bits of information.

What's frustrating is that those companies, in a desperate ploy to remain relevant, are monkeying around with how that content is delivered, enforcing artificial means of restricting it so that our options as consumers are limited.

Decades ago, you got your channels bundled through your cable company because it made sense. There was quality content on them, and you get a discount by getting a bunch of them all at once. These days? That quality content is much more questionable, and the value you get by being forced to select a bundle is middling at best. Sure, you get hundreds of channels, but what use are all those channels if nothing's on them?

As a consumer, I feel like I should be able to subscribe to a select number of channels online, through the internet (and then on to my Apple TV to get it on my television). I would take Turner Classic Movies, Discovery, AMC, ESPN, ESPN2, maybe HBO. Pick and choose the channels I wanted until I ended up with an ideal package just for me. I would even pay more per channel for this option--perhaps channels were as little as .25/channel when they're bundled, but $1 or $2/channel separately. That would be okay. In the end, I'd be paying less, and I'd be getting only what I wanted for channels. Plus, the channels I liked and supported would be getting more of the money, as opposed to MTV8 or The "Learning" Channel.

But I can't do that. Cable companies and satellite companies are terrified that they'll be left doing nothing, so they hold on to those bundles and the licensing agreements associated with them.

Another example: across most of the country, you can get TV signals over the air for free. It costs the consumer nothing. I get lousy TV reception. I feel like I should be able to watch the same content all my fellow citizens get to watch--just online, instead of over the air.

No can do.

Yes, I understand that some of this is due to advertising fees and how that is all structured, but in the end, that again seems like an antiquated way of dealing with today's technology.

With my Apple TV, I should be able to do everything I just described and more. I know it's capable of doing it. But I can't do it yet. Hopefully one day soon . . .

Of course, as this is on a library blog, I feel compelled to bring up a library-specific point in relation to all of this. I hope that we, as librarians, don't fall into the same rut that the cable companies are in right now. Consumers and patrons are getting used to being able to get their books digitally. Quickly, easily. I'd like to think they're okay paying a bit of money to do this in many cases, but there are also people out there who can't afford to pay money, and rely on libraries for their content.

Our job is to navigate the waters to make sure that we stay relevant, but not at the price of placing false restrictions on content. I could easily see libraries becoming more and more local information dealers, distributors, and negotiators--helping each community they serve get access to the information that community needs. I'm worried at times that in our rush to remain relevant, we're too slow to embrace the changes and opportunities offered by new technology.

Then again, perhaps the biggest problem in all this isn't the companies--it's the law that has trouble adapting and changing with the times.

I don't know--thoughts, anyone?

1 comment:

  1. This was an excellent read. Thank you! My sentiments exactly and well worded.