My last prediction laid out a pretty aggressive 2011 computing strategy for Apple. But it is just that — a computing strategy — not a media strategy, and Steve Jobs is clearly the most important media mogul on the planet right now, and maybe the most fragile. This latter point is important, because Steve sees himself as having both a unique mission and a frail constitution. He can’t wait to get things done, which is why the next couple years will be probably the most important in Apple’s history.
Who needs a 1,000,000 square foot data center? That’s big enough, I calculate, to support 800 million simultaneous users. Who the heck needs a facility like that? It’s overkill for even the bold Apple plan I laid out in prediction #9. But go back to the beginning again and think about bufferbloat, which I think will be the defining technical issue for the next couple years.
Bufferbloat stands between Steve Jobs and media domination.
Then remember prediction #4, that your cable ISP probably won’t fix bufferbloat because it protects two current profit centers — TV and IP phone service. This will limit the success of Netflix and Hulu and other TV competitors. It will limit Apple’s Carolina strategy, too, unless Steve does something very bold to circumvent the problem.
What do you pay today for cable TV? Let’s guess that Apple will use that new data center to serve audio and video streams carrying music and TV and movies maybe for a flat subscription fee. I predict there will be price tiers based on resolution and some content and/or earlier access will go for higher prices. Apple trailers, for example, come in 480p, 720p, and 1080p, so those tiers become no-brainers ($59.95, $69.95, $79.95 per month possibly — remember this is Apple). And 1080p-60/7.1? That’s $99.95.
And how does Steve introduce this service? I think he takes some of that $50 billion in cash, buys an existing cable TV company and essentially shuts it down. He only has to buy one to make the splash he likes — a splash that is also a kick in the face to Google with its metro gigabit networks. Once the people of North Carolina get the real Apple TV, how long before other cable subscribers simply give up their TV services, forcing their cable companies to become pure bit-schlepping ISPs for Apple?
Apple’s data center is in Maiden, NC, which is served by Comcast. No luck there. But it isn’t far from Time Warner, which I believe Steve would see as an acceptable purchase costing around $30 billion.