As I understand it, Apple is now talking about producing a TV which is also an internet device. Even before it became one of the primary topics of tech-talk, I thought that since so many people don't actually use a personal computer for anything but web-based functions, the future for computing was through the television. However, as time has ticked by I have grown more doubtful of this possibility. The reason for my doubt is . . . . well, money. Just as leasing vehicles has allowed the car industry to inflate the price of automobiles to ridiculous levels, the modern tech industry is nickeling and diming us to death. Every new tech device you purchase seems to come with some built-in monthly cost. As I understand it Google's new personal computer in which everything you do is done through the so-called "cloud," is really just a computer that comes with another monthly bill to access Google's cloud.
Last year we tried Netflix in our house. The content, though not overwhelming, was good and there was lots of entertainment to be had. The problem was that by the end of the month we had an extra bill of fifty dollars for extra net usage. For that price I could have purchased a movie channel package and watched three times as much new content for less money without having to worry that the kids are further pushing up my internet bill every time they go online.
It seems that companies like Apple and Google are consciously driving technology not for the sake of convenience and innovation but to find new ways to drive up the amount that people will pay every month for access to a service or network. Young people are getting jobs just to finance their cell-phone bills and it seems ridiculous to me. I don't want to access the internet through my television just so Rogers can send me an extra bill every month. I don't actually gain anything except a bigger screen for my web access, and anyway I can purchase a cable for a few bucks that will put my computer monitor screen on my LCD TV without any new technology.
I think that there is something fundamentally wrong with the technology model that is being developed today. Remember (if you are over 40) when they told us that in the future we would have a lot more leisure time and we would be a paperless society? That didn't workout for the simple reason that capitalism has a mindless growth incentive that makes leisure fundamentally problematic. Regardless of how much resources and technologies we develop and have, capitalism as an economic system cannot function unless people are continuously, mindlessly, exhaustively working and consuming. The problems with this are many and obvious. Beside the environmental issues that such a system brings up, economists like Schumpeter (to say nothing of Marx) long ago pointed out that as capitalism drives people out of work through innovation in production and international competition, capitalism will put more wealth in fewer hands and the modus operandi of the system itself will begin to corrode its function.
Returning to the issue of Apple TV, where are we going with this? Why should people purchase a device that will do almost nothing for them which will essentially include another monthly expense in an already stretched budget? The way forward is open source networks, and reductions in patents and copyrights (something Adam Smith ironically would ague for) in order to make technology actually work for people rather than people working for technology. The problem is, of course, how to make the economy do the same thing?