Friday, October 23, 2015

Get off my LAN!

You tell 'em, Grandpa!
OK, I'm going into 'crotchety old man gripe mode' for this blog post. To be fair, there are some people who will proclaim that I'm *always* a crotchety old man, so they may not notice much of a change in tone with this post. Nevertheless, I have a bone to pick over the state of modern technology and feel the need to write about it.

Traditionally, I'm an early adopter. Perhaps not "bleeding edge" early...but definitely "cutting edge" early. I'm a gadget fiend and an admitted Apple fan...and while I may give Apple preference in my tech acquisitions, I am by no means a 'tech bigot'. However, over the past couple years (or so), I've noticed that I've become less inclined to hop on the 'latest and greatest' bandwagon.

Case-in-point is the new AppleTV. I love my AppleTV - in fact, I own three of them (one Gen 2 v1 - the first black, puck-ish device, and two Gen 2 v2 devices - the model currently available for $69). I pre-ordered the Gen 2 v1 when it was announced a few years ago, and it was instrumental in helping me 'cut the cord' with Comcast. As more content became available for it, there was less of a need to pay a cable provider for a multitude of channels that I would rarely, if ever, watch. Goodbye, Comcast. The AppleTV (ATV) became the entertainment hub in my house.

I then purchased a second ATV - Gen 2 v2 - for a second TV. Did I upgrade my first ATV when the newer version came out? No...there was no need. Both were able to deliver the content that I needed, with the only real difference being the newer model supported 1080p resolution, whereas the old one did not. I didn't need/want the higher resolution on either TV, so that difference was meaningless. I only retired the Gen 2 v1 when it started exhibiting freezing problems and random resets. So, now I have two active Gen 2 v2 ATVs in my home. And they work just fine.

This will make things worse.
Feed me, Seymour.
However, in a special event Apple held on September 9, 2015, a new ATV - featuring local storage, Siri, a touch-sensitive remote, a beefier processor, and support for apps - was unveiled. Outwardly, it looks much the same as the current model...though a bit taller. Who cares? I don't need apps for my TV, the remote looks like it's something expensive to replace, and I don't want to talk to my TV. When I turn on the idiot box, I want to be entertained - JUST GIVE ME THE SHOWS THAT I WANT TO WATCH. 

The new ATV does nothing to address the convoluted mess that is current state of digital entertainment. In fact, I contend that it will make things worse. I don't want to be nickeled-and-dimed to watch shows and movies - that's why I pay for Netflix and Hulu Plus...and the occasional purchase from iTunes when I don't want to wait for the content to appear on the other two. Heck, even YouTube has quite a bit of compelling content.

However, with the "appification" of content, one can be assured that the proliferation of multiple, exclusive streams from which content will be available will make one's monthly entertainment bill just as expensive - perhaps even more so - than traditional cable TV. To wit, CBS now has an app on the current ATV...but it doesn't do you any good unless you subscribe to their portal. Oh, yay - another monthly bill to allow me to watch content. Thanks, but no thanks, CBS - I'll just wait to watch your stuff if/when it shows up on one of the major streaming services for which I already pay. Or not at all. I really don't care. I don't need a Siri search to tell me that 'The Big Bang Theory' is available to watch on a service to which I don't subscribe. That's not helpful at all.

Thankfully, ABC, NBC, Fox - and many other networks - still make their content available on Hulu Plus the day after airing. I can easily live with that...though it IS irritating that some shows (like NBC's 'The Blacklist') are no longer offered. I fear it's only to get worse.

I don't pirate...but I can understand why some do.
One step forward, a million frickin' steps back.
The whole model for digital content is a broken mess of legalese and red tape. Everybody wants their cut. OK - I get deserve to get paid for your work. Fair enough. However, when those contractual limitations are a hinderance to content consumption, technology ISN'T the problem. There's nothing new that can be invented, programmed, developed, etc., that will fix the craptastic nature of the beast until that mess is fixed.

In today's world, there's no technical reason one would need to subscribe to multiple providers in order to watch a handful of shows. Hell, have we regressed to the "good 'ol days" of C-band satellite dishes with decoders for each of the channels/satellites we want to watch? Doesn't appear like much progress to me. Aggregate providers - like Netflix and Hulu - are where it's at. I don't mind paying a few dollars more per month to those services PROVIDED they have all the content. Conversely, "lone wolves" like CBS won't get a penny from me until they fully integrate with someone like Netflix or Hulu.

That's why I'm in no way excited about the new AppleTV - it does nothing to address the problem plaguing digital content. Nothing. And that's why I won't buy one.