Is Apple's Digital Hub strategy flawed?

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Stefano Scalia thinks so. Let's see...

Apple is focusing every facet of the digital world onto the computer screen. But what do countless families in the US and around the world group around for hours on end every day? I'll tell you.

The television.

This is the key point of his opinion, and I think it's flawed.

According to LCI/Le Journal du Web, internauts in Europe are spending now more time surfing on the web than watching TV. I can only guess that they're doing this in front of a computer, and the development of broadband, wireless and slicker, faster, easier computers in addition to good online content will just increase that trend. Is TV showing any comparable development trend? Not likely in terms of content, and the current attempt at giant flat screens (or LCD/DLP projectors) are not yet going mainstream if you look at the price tags.

Even if people were spending slightly more time in front of the TV doesn't mean the TV is going to replace everything that needs to carry sounds or images. This is the sort of manichean reasoning that yields to conclusions such as the TV will kill the radios and theaters, the radio will kill the newspapers, etc.

Current statistics suggest that the average American household has the TV on for 7 hours and 40 minutes a day, and that 40% of Americans eat dinner while watching TV. Talk about an eye-catching medium.

No wonder how they're being so easily brainwashed (pardon the pun, it's the epoch, and black humor is not yet classified as a weapon of mass destruction). More seriously, this is the most important characteristic of TV and it's main difference with the PC: passivity. People watch TV in passive mode, even in groups (look at what happens when someone grabs the remote control and starts zapping). A PC is a mostly interactive and solitary experience (I hope this doesn't trigger any parental guidance filter).

[The TV], according to Sony, Microsoft, and numerous other companies makes it the future medium of choice. Sorry Apple, it's not the computer.The difference, especially with Sony, is the fact that they control so many different areas of consumer electronics. (...) Now Sony is poised to completely dominate all areas of your 'digital lifestyle' - and, if Sony's latest television, PDA, and Viao offerings are any sign, they are.

Viao, isn't that... a PC?

if you purchase a new Sony WEGA TV, you can use your Sony digital camera to view your photos, straight onto the television with it's built in Memory-Stick reader.

Great. I can do that with pretty much any camera, by just plugging it to the TV. No need for the memory stick (a proprietary and expensive trap of Sony's digital hub), or even a PC. By the way, this is another error in the reasoning: for what reason would you throw away everything to buy a 100% Sony digital life? Sony is certainly not going to change the digital world if consumers are being trapped into a single brand choice. Incidentally, HP is trying this path as well.

These photos, with the use of Sony's 'RoomLink network media system (which can also broadcast TV to your desktop, from your television, and play music)' can be sent to your computer, all with just a few clicks of the remote.

I'd like to see how this compares to my experience with Mac OS X: plug the camera, watch iPhoto launch automatically, zero click. In probably no more than the "few clicks" you need to send your photos to your Sony PC, your photos treated on the Mac are published on your website.

And with TV technology making leaps and bounds, such as Plasma and the adoption of High-Definition Television, or HDTV (which will be a broadcast standard in 2006) TV's will become a great way to display any type of media.

Here we have something: scrutinizing the back of flat screens and projectors for DVI connectors reveals where the junction will likely be between the home PC and the home cinema system. However, there is still a PC in the picture, using the TV as its screen. Hopefully, since I'm not looking forward into writing on my weblog with, er, a remote control.

The television will be the center of the digital hub, and Apple is not the innovator on this front.

They surely can't innovate on all fronts, but they still are one of the few real innovators in the PC arena. And as far as we need to pinpoint a center on the digital hub, I have a hard time locating it on... a screen!

The hub is a marketing construct which makes easy for marketers to make you focus on the particular product they sell (a PC for Apple, a TV for Sony, whatever can carry a Windows license for Microsoft). This is another trap Scalia is falling into. After all, if I want to quickly print a photo from my camera, why do I have to deal with a PC or a TV when I can transfer it directly to the printer? If I need extra storage space because the memory card in the camera is getting full, I can connect it to the MP3 player and use its tens of gigabytes of disk space. Think of all the possible connections where you to get two devices communicate together and where neither a PC nor a TV are part of the picture, because they're not any useful or -- frequently -- because they're not with you when you're mobile.

Communication, mobility and standards are the names of the game. USB and FireWire if you are stuck on cables, Bluetooth and WiFi if you dare to enjoy the delights of the real future of your digital life: the wireless personal network. A glue around your digital belongings where the center of gravity is whatever fits your needs at the right time and the right place. And Apple is not particularly late on this bandwagon. They bet on portable computers loaded with about every communication standards and best of breed softwares, it makes way more sense to me than centering my life around a 200 pounds HDTV broadcasting "reality TV" shows!

To paraphrase a Silicon Valley motto, The Network Is The Hub™.