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TVs — the newest mobile device

By Evan Wade / August 14, 2013

“Mobile OS” may no longer be the best term for the software powering our phones and tablets. Google’s Chromecast and Apple TV are tangible examples of the cool stuff mobile platforms can do when they kick back in our living rooms. With hugely popular Kickstarter campaigns putting similar products on store shelves and persistent rumors of an Amazon-branded set-top box, it’s fair to assume the media server is making itself at home.

New products, same story

Chromecast is to TVs as Android is to smartphones. Like all Google devices, Chromecast has far fewer barriers to entry than its competitors. According to a recent article, the Google Cast SDK lets brands and media properties stream their content with a few modifications instead of having to build an app from the ground up.

The other leading cable box alternative, Apple TV, takes a characteristically insular approach to software. Most of the movies, music and shows streamed through Apple TV come from the iTunes store, which offers a diverse á la carte menu of media content. That’s not to say they’re completely resistant to outside content, as seen with their built-in Hulu Plus and Netflix capabilities. Third parties can feasibly bring their apps to Apple TV, but is it worth the extra effort now that Chromecast is on the market?

Apple TV’s backdoor entry

Though there’s no real App Store for Apple TV — permitted apps come pre-installed — it’s possible to sneak onto viewers’ televisions through Apple’s proprietary streaming technology, AirPlay. When paired with a mobile iOS device, AirPlay turns the user’s TV screens into an independent source of visual information and their iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch into a sophisticated remote control.

Vidora is one of the first apps to seize the streaming opportunity. Used on its own, this iPad app lets viewers pull content from popular online destinations like Hulu and Amazon Instant Video. Connecting it to an Apple TV via AirPlay brings the video content from the small screen to any display you can imagine (as long as it’s Apple TV-compatible).

Supersizing your video content isn’t Vidora’s only benefit. The app also provides pertinent recommendations — much like Netflix — and shows you exactly where to find the video you’re searching for. Once you’ve navigated the peaceful waters of Vidora with your iPad, you’ll never want to use your Apple TV remote again.

Follow the demand

According to Russ Crupnick, senior vice president of industry analysis at the NPD Group, over half of streaming TV viewers are between 18- and 34-years-old. In the same way millennials have largely eschewed landlines for cell phones, today’s youth will have no problem cutting cable television for a cheap, convenient alternative like mobile-based media servers.

It makes perfect sense from their financial perspective. While it may sting to lose the few bits of content that require a cable agreement — like live sports — paying $50 or more each month for a bunch of TV shows you don’t even watch hurts worse, especially for young adults on a shoestring budget.

The abundance of unwanted channels is a large part of the reason people clamor for services like HBO GO to offer a standalone option, even at a higher cost. Paying more for a service that better suits your lifestyle doesn’t seem illogical when it eliminates a larger monthly bill. The only thing that doesn’t make sense is why so many people are still attached to their cable box.