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Imagining an Apple television

Marco Tabini | Jan. 4, 2013
Rumors that Apple is working on some sort of television set never seem to die down. Speculation on this subject has abounded for years--including the occasional article here at Macworld--fueled most recently by Walter Isaacson's biography of Steve Jobs and noncommittally confirmed by his successor in an interview with NBC's Brian Williams.

Rumors that Apple is working on some sort of television set never seem to die down. Speculation on this subject has abounded for years--including the occasional article here at Macworld--fueled most recently by Walter Isaacson's biography of Steve Jobs and noncommittally confirmed by his successor in an interview with NBC's Brian Williams."

There is, of course, no knowing if an Apple-branded TV set is really coming. The folks from Cupertino have shown that they are nothing if not unpredictable, forcing pundits left and right to speculate and then harriedly explain how the company's moves really make sense with the benefit of hindsight.

Speculation aside, however, sitting on the couch to watch a show reminds me constantly of how much room for improvement there is in the way we currently consume television, starting from the way devices talk to each other.

The digital hub

My living room is, in many ways, typical of most North American households: We own a couch, a TV set (in my case, a 55-inch 2009 Sony Bravia LED flatscreen) and a digital Dolby 5.1 surround system.

A number of devices are attached to the TV: a Playstation 3, an Xbox 360, a Nintendo Wii, and an Apple TV. Until not long ago, a Western Digital TV Live completed the setup to play our ripped DVD collection, although we have recently replaced it with InMethod's Air Video for iPad playing through the Apple TV over Airplay.

All these electronics come with myriad accessories: controllers for the consoles (and their chargers), a Microsoft Kinect, an infrared remote extension for the Playstation, and so on.

The result is that the back of my TV stand has turned into a jumble of cables of epic proportions--one that I am, frankly, afraid to step into. I don't mean this in a metaphorical sense, as if it were the lair of some magical monster; I mean it quite literally: I know that every time I reach around to plug something in, I inevitably end up unplugging something else, and then have to spend the next half hour figuring out whence that orphaned cable came.

This is not the living room of the future that I was promised twenty years ago. All the talk of digital hubs and wireless technology has died down into the snake pit that lives behind my TV set, fueled by an absurd surplus of cables that are both redundant and costly: Each device needs at least a power cable, plus an HDMI cable that connects to the back of the TV--and that's a best-case-scenario, because older electronics may need up to five different cables to carry component video and optical audio.

 

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