AWT News Update: December 9, 2015

Lots of news today, especially about the Apple TV:

  • Content providers are the logjam keeping Apple from selling a low-cost bundle of channels on the Apple TV
  • Eddy Cue says that an iOS app replicating the functions of the Siri Remote will be out next year
  • Microsoft ships Cortana for iOS, the company's digital assistant
  • WSJ says AppleCare isn't worth the cost

The text version of the podcast is below, and you can watch the video of the podcast recording here

Text Version

Hi, I’m Steve Sande from Apple World Today, and this is the AWT News Update for December 9, 2015.

Well, as we were putting the podcast together yesterday afternoon, we caught wind that Apple was apparently having issues getting content providers to sell Apple their channels at a rate that would allow the company to market a bundle for Apple TV for about $30 a month. Peter Kafka at Re/code reported that the main problem was that Apple wanted to sell a base package at that low price point, but content owners wanted all of their channels included. For example, Disney wanted to include ABC, ABC Family, the various Disney channels and assorted ESPN channels as well. Apple’s content chief, Eddy Cue, has been working the negotiations and has been insistent on the low price of entry for a service that would offer the four major US television broadcast networks and 10 biggest cable channels. Due to the reluctance of the content providers to offer Apple just the basics, Apple walked away from negotiations and is now focusing on building out the tvOS App Store. Apps can be used as a way for media companies to sell directly to consumers, and perhaps when the providers see what kind of sales they’re getting for app-based content, they’ll be willing to talk to Apple again. For the time being, though, a streaming television service from Apple looks unlikely.

Speaking of the fourth-generation Apple TV and Eddy Cue, the Apple VP was interviewed by Buzzfeed and revealed that an iOS remote app that offers the same functionality as the Siri Remote that ships with the little black box will be shipped sometime in 2016. Cue noted that the new Apple TV has over 2,000 apps, and that over half of the customers buying the new device are upgrading from the last generation of Apple TV while the others are new to the platform. Cue also believes that candidates for the next US presidential election could reach new demographics by creating a native tvOS app. As for what appears to be the most popular use of the Apple TV right now, it’s gaming. Cue said that “What we’re seeing with the new Apple TV is to me very similar with gaming on the iPhone. When we first announced the iPhone, we didn’t tout it as a gaming device. But games became a huge part of iPhone, because it turns out that a lot more people than just hardcore gamers love games. We expanded the market. I think the vast majority of people around the world probably aren’t looking to buy an Xbox or Playstation. But that doesn’t mean they don’t enjoy playing games. I think Apple TV expands the gaming market to those people.”

Keeping with its promise, Microsoft today shipped the Cortana digital assistant for iOS. The app had been in a limited beta test on iOS for a while, and is now available in the United States and China. For those who have to use Windows 10 at work, Cortana provides cross platform synchronization, with reminders that can be set both on the Windows 10 PC and the iPhone. If both Siri and Google Voice Search have left you wanting to try something different, you now have a third voice-activated digital assistant to chat with.

Do you buy AppleCare for your iPhones? The Wall Street Journal ran some numbers and found that unless you destroy your phone completely, the warranty program isn’t worth the investment. Without AppleCare and using a local service provider to repair a cracked screen on an iPhone 6, you’d be out $109 to $140. Doing the repair yourself with a readily available kit will cost you $110 to $125. With AppleCare, you’d spend $99 for the warranty, plus pay a $79 deductible to get the screen replaced for a total of $178 out of pocket. Where AppleCare can be very useful is with repairs of much more expensive products like MacBooks, where some repairs are well over the upfront cost of the product and don’t require a deductible to be paid. The Wall Street Journal says the best plan is that espoused by economist Richard Thaler at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. He said, “Every time someone offers to sell you insurance on a non-large purchase say no, and take that money and put it into a rainy-day account. With any luck, there will be plenty of money in that account the next time you drop your iPhone.”

I’ll be back tomorrow afternoon with another edition of the AWT News Update.