Everything you need to know before Apple's March 25 "it's show time" event

 People cluster outside a futuristic glass-and-steel building.
Enlarge / The Steve Jobs auditorium on Apple's new campus.

On March 25, Apple executives and partners will take to the Internship at the Steve Jobs Theater at Apple's Cupertino Campus to talk about subscriptions, software, services, entertainment and media. These are all things Apple has dealt with before, but never before has an event focused so completely on them as we're expecting later this month.

That's not to say it's impossible that hardware will appear. The timing is right for an update to Apple's base iPad model, and reports have been joined by developer beta to imply that hardware refreshes are imminent for a few Apple products like the iPad, iPad mini, iPod touch, and AirPods. These would fit perfectly into an event focused on services like TV, Music, and News: they are media-consumption devices, first and foremost.

But this will be Apple's first public event after the reported a marked decline in worldwide iPhone sales, worrying pundits, analysts, and investors that the iPhone hardware-dependent company is in for difficult times. It is fitting (and possibly counting) that the event will focus on services — the division of Apple is happiest to right now — rather than hardware.

Of course, you should be skeptical when you read hot takes on the Internet declaration that Apple is doomed because its iPhone sales are down primarily in China. It's not good news, but other companies would give anything to the financial and market position that Apple does most of its worldwide business interests, even with that rare sign of weakness. [Iwrite"most"becauseAppleisactuallylaggingsubstantiallybehindintheoneareaIexpecttheMarcheventtoemphasizethemost:television

The iTunes Store is a successful platform for buying episodes of TV series, but many people are looking to watch TV shows that are part of a streaming subscription bundle like Netflix, Hulu or Amazon Prime. While we generally liked the Apple TV 4K as a media streaming hardware solution when we reviewed it, Apple's market share in that space is unimpressive. The cheaper, more accessible, less closed-off Roku platform dominates. That's not to mention the fact that many of today's TVs ship with Netflix and the same built right in, and more than half of US households own video game consoles with all video streaming app libraries.

But the same story emerged for music on iTunes before Apple launched the massively successful Apple Music service. Could the same happen again with television or with news? And what do we know about the new iPads that may or may not be announced?


An Apple streaming TV service

The television industry perfectly fits the classic profile as a dilapidated industry ready for the Kind of technological house flipping that has previously led to Apple's biggest successes. With the iPod, iPhone, Macintosh, AirPods, and other hit products, Apple has identified product categories that proved to be badly handicapped by shortsighted design decisions or industry fragmentation. Television service is just such a product.

Television networks are the definitions of dinosaurs. Their business models and technologies are archaic and under threat from new innovations. And thanks to near-monopolies held by local cable providers, poor bargaining positions with those cable providers on the part of networks, bloated subsidies for content like ESPN that not everyone wants, and glacial innovation, the user experience for cable television service is almost universally awful right now — and it's badly priced, too.

It's fitting that the TV industry itself, in which I have previously worked, calls streaming services "OTT" ̵[ads1]1; "over the top." Look right there in the name: the only way to produce a good user experience is right over the entire infrastructure the industry has spent decades building and monopolizing.

Apple's efforts with Apple TV just illustrate how bad the situation is. Even Apple, with its powerful bargaining position, couldn't rally the entire industry behind the Apple TV 4K into a good solution built on top of the various streaming services. The channels all use different technologies, they don't play nicely together and their arcane and exclusive deals with cable providers mean that Apple can't guarantee a universal experience for all its Apple TV users.

A popular biography of forms Apple CEO Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson revealed that this TV problem was what he was approaching as his approach. final days running the company. He was obsessed with solving it, the same way iTunes addressed and similar to the music industry in the early 2000s.

This month's Apple event carries the tagline "It's show time" —a tagline used for an event years ago at which Apple first announced the future Apple TV product. Apple's current leadership seems to have finished the work Jobs started.

But whereas previous efforts are closely related to networks to provide a better tech platform for distributing those networks' existing content, the new service appears to be more like Amazon Prime Video: an original content machine augmented by licensed content and Add-ons or premium channels like Starz or HBO Now

 It doesn't look like this, but this neighborhood / municipality in Los Angeles called Culver City is home to numerous film and TV companies — most famously Sony Pictures, and now Apple's growing LA campus as well. "Src =" "width =" 640 "height =" 427 "srcset =" 2x
Enlarge / It doesn't look Culver City is home to numerous movie and TV companies — most famously Sony Pictures, and now Appl e's growing LA campus as well.

Samuel Axon

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