Elgan: How Apple will kill cable TV

Apple is going to do to your cable TV box what it did to the audio CD: Make it go away

I have a new theory about Apple. No, it's really a reverse engineering of their larger mission, a unified theory of Apple that explains everything the company does.

Here it is: Apple's mission is to replace old-and-busted content-consumption products and services with new-hotness Apple solutions.

The company is like a shark in the water, seeking out weak and wounded content-delivery systems.

The reason Apple focuses on the content experience is because there's just so much money in it. Apple can make money on hardware, on software, on cloud services, on providing content, on allowing others to provide content and on advertising. The content focus is why, for example, the profits Apple receives from the iPhone are twice as high as those of all other phone makers.

It started with music. Apple saw that music fans were being abused by the industry, forced to buy $13 CDs just to get the one song they wanted. The devices required to play those CDs were huge, and the interfaces were clunky.

Apple set out to replace that lousy content experience, and it did so with iPods and iTunes.

Next, it noticed that people started consuming a lot of content on mobile phones. But the experience was terrible. Phones were ugly and clunky. Mobile interfaces were awkward and counterintuitive. The carriers were gouging users and offering lousy content. So Apple fixed the horrible content consumption problem on mobile phones with the iPhone and the App Store.

Then, Apple noticed that people like to consume content like Internet videos, websites and ebooks while they're sitting around the house, away from their desktop PCs. But they were doing it with laptops and netbooks, awkwardly balancing them on their laps. So Apple came out with the killer iPad tablet to solve the around-the-house content-consumption problem.

As Apple looks around for other bad content experiences to replace, the elephant in the living room is television.

For the past few years, Apple's "hobby" has been solving the TV and home video content consumption problem. Now, it looks like Apple may turn pro.

How Apple will change your channel

The Wall Street Journal reported on Friday that "people familiar with the matter" say Apple is working on "new technology to deliver video to televisions" and may "launch a subscription TV service."

The article says that former Apple CEO and current Chairman Steve Jobs "often criticizes, in public and in private, the experience of watching TV as clumsy and bad for consumers" and says that the "existing system, where consumers get content from different cable and satellite providers that use different technologies, makes it difficult to innovate."

Translation: "We are going to kill cable TV."

This news makes perfect sense in the context of recent announcements, reports, rumors and speculation about Apple's other plans.

Apple already has licensing deals to sell individual TV shows or entire series in the form of a "Season Pass" on iTunes. The problem is that those season passes are way too expensive. Hot new cable shows like Breaking Bad run about $35 per season, which is somewhat reasonable. But even crappy old reruns like MacGyver and the original Hawaii Five-O cost $20 for a season pass. Selection is poor, but the iTunes and Apple TV experience is great.

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