If smartphone app sales (namely iPhone app sales) have taught manufacturers anything it’s that there’s ready money to be made in the parting of the people from their pennies. For the past few years we’ve seen very little uptake in the general, non-mobile app sales market as Apple – and now, to a lesser degree – Android had that world sewn up.
Now, however, I fear that appization – meaning the creation of cloud-based stores that sell small widgets, pieces of content, or streams and that eschew physical media entirely – is coming to just about everything including desktops (Mac App Store and the Windows App Store), publishing (Conde Nast et al), and now TVs. Books will be appized. Magazines will be appized. Cable TV will be appized. Heck, even OSes are appized.
As I wrote last year, we are approaching the era of the paywall. This means that the things we read, listen to, and buy will soon cost a small amount of money. This will be a painless amount and it will allow future artists, singers, games manufacturers, and journalists to buy cat food and pencils in order to produce the work you guys expect to receive to free. This also means that manufacturers know they can grab a steady, if small, stream of revenue by creating an API and methodology to allow their devices to run “other” applications. For example, the monstrosity you see above is the Samsung D9500 75-inch 3D TV. You’ll notice it has a video chat feature, widgets, and a bunch of other insane junk – read “apps” – cluttering its wide, LED backlit screen. Although no one has made money on those apps yet, you and I both know Samsung would love to sell 99-cent copies of Angry Birds on their big TVs.
More likely, however, will be more and more content partnerships. Netflix is the obvious choice here but what if Discovery channel offered a TV app that allowed for instant downloads of Mythbusters? What if Hulu wasn’t the only game and town? And what if these apps eventually replaced the always-on firehouse that is broadcast television?
The day when we subscribe to TV shows a la carte on non-TV devices is a long way off. I suspect just about every major cable company and broadcaster would start throwing FUD and lobbyists at any company that tried to get creative with their distribution. However, we all need to become savvier consumers. Not all app stores are created equal and I worry that as soon as stalwart devices like TVs start getting app stores manufacturers will coyly require regular upgrades of large-ticket televisions in order to get new features. Some devices are meant to be dumb.
On the other hand, I do look forward to the ultimate disruption of many of the entrenched modes of content consumption now prevalent. For example, as much as I love reading the paper version of the New Yorker (on the toilet) I would love it better if I could just bring it up on my iPad on Monday and have it there waiting for me any time I have a few spare minutes. I think my behavior needs adjustment before I can go wholeheartedly into an app-based future but I think my children will find appization so commonplace and familiar that there will be no disconnected between the pre-app, media landscape and the coming deluge of micro-payment driven sources.