Apple’s reported acquisition of video discovery startup Matcha may be the latest element in the company’s ambitions to disrupt the TV industry as it did the smartphones market.
The US startup launched an iPad app in March 2012 to act as a guide to TV shows and films on digital services including iTunes, Netflix, Hulu and Amazon. It shut down with little notice in May 2013.
An acquisition by Apple, rather than commercial failure, is thought to be the cause, with VentureBeat reporting that Apple bought Matcha for between $1m and $1.5m.
Apple has dead-batted questions about the acquisition with its traditional “Apple buys smaller technology companies from time to time, and we generally do not discuss our purpose or plans” response, but Matcha looks like a good fit for the company’s emerging TV business.
Apple chief executive Tim Cook said in May that the company had sold 13m of its Apple TV set-top boxes, with around half of those sales coming in the first five months of 2013.
Cook had regularly described Apple TV as a “hobby” for the company until late 2012, when he told NBC that television was “an area of intense interest” for Apple, and criticised current TV interfaces as making him “feel like I have gone backwards in time by 20 to 30 years”.
While analysts and journalists alike continue to speculate that Apple may launch its own television set in the next year or two, Matcha seems an obvious fit for Apple TV in its current form.
The set-top box enables users to access TV shows and films from iTunes and Netflix, as well as YouTube, Vimeo, Sky News, Major League Baseball, Wall Street Journal Live, Crunchyroll and Quello. In the US, Hulu Plus and HBO Go are also supported.
Matcha’s technology could be used as an on-screen way to browse content and get recommendations across these services, and/or be revamped and re-released as an Apple-branded iPad app for controlling Apple TV – similar to the way music-player software SoundJam MP was bought by Apple in 2000 to form the backbone of the company’s first iTunes application the following year.
In May, Matcha’s chief executive Guy Piekarz told TechCrunch that “the hardest thing, by far, in the new direction we’re going was taking down the service, which we’ve been building for the last couple of years”, but promised to ” provide something better in the future”.
All eyes will be on the next version (or perhaps the version after that) of Apple TV’s software to see how that “something better” shapes up, as well as on the App Store to see if Matcha reappears in some form for iPad.
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