Portable TV and Music

We just packed up an Airbnb that we have been living in for three months in Los Angeles and are heading back east.

This is a photo of my carry on luggage as I was packing it this morning.

That is an AppleTV and a Sonos Connect in between my “shaving kit” and my sneakers.

I brought these two devices out west and connected the AppleTV to the one TV in the Airbnb and I connected the Sonos to the receiver that powered the in ceiling speakers in the main living space in the house.

Even if the Airbnb had come with an AppleTV and a Sonos device, I would have swapped out theirs for ours for the length of our stay because these two devices have all of our services pre-confgured on them and we are logged into all of the services.

That is where the big difference is for me and the reason it is worth schlepping these devices cross country and back. The devices aren’t crazy expensive. The AppleTV is around $150 and the Sonos Connect is around $300. But setting these devices up, connecting them to all of the various services we subscribe to, and logging into each and every one can be an hour or more of work each time you do it.

All I had to do was power them up, connect to wifi, and connect to the TV and/or the receiver, and we were good to go.

It’s kind of magic to have all of your services right there on the device, organized how you like them, and ready to go.

I have friends who do the AppleTV move in hotels when they travel for business. I haven’t gone that far but I might leave the AppleTV in my carry on luggage along with my shaving kit and try that on my next business trip. Plugging in an HDMI cable into a TV is pretty straightforward in most cases.

What this means is TV and music is now highly portable. You can bring your TV and music with you when you travel and connect into the existing infrastructure in your hotel or Airbnb.

If these devices get small enough or cheap enough (or both), or if our smartphones can replicate all of the functionality of these devices, then the hospitality industry can focus on the “dumb” infrastructure and the guests can bring the smart devices.


Comments (Archived):

  1. Chimpwithcans

    With your pixel phone bias I’d have expected a chromecast in your bag?

    1. fredwilson

      i don’t have all of the services on my phone that I have on our AppleTV. i should see if i can create the same experience with my phone and a Chromecast. that would be a fun experiment

      1. kenberger

        Yes, this goes a long way. it’s pretty quick to set everything up on the Chromecast, you could also power it via a laptop chrome browser, or I would think via your slate.I pretty much always have a Chromecast in my laptop bag because it’s so tiny and weightless, have little need for anything bigger.

      2. Chimpwithcans

        I really like the Chromecast – I have one for video and one for audio. Works nicely on the move and easy to setup. Have you kept the services from your phone on purpose? Or is it all Apple stuff (non-transferable)?

        1. tsella

          Yeah I was going to say – but there are devices small enough and cheap enough.. Chromecast and Chromecast Audio.I carry them with me.

  2. Pointsandfigures

    Do the same now. Sometimes even bring Amazon Alexa.

  3. William Mougayar

    We travel with an HDMI cable too, for that same reason, but last time we forgot that cable in the Paris AirBnB, so now they are mailing it back. That said, often there’s some other Netflix account already logged in, as people forget to log out when they check out.Lesson: Don’t forget your cable in your AirBnB’s! And don’t forget to log out from your Netflix accounts!!

    1. kenberger

      Try a Chromecast, that IS your (new) HDMI cable.

      1. William Mougayar

        I have one! Will do next time .

  4. Richard Reisman

    This kind of portability should become a standard network service, with no need for special hardware, based on controlled access to a profile record (on you phone or in the cloud). Just a smarter implementation of TV Anywhere (as intended a decade ago).Meanwhile, a Roku stick (or similar from Amazon or Google) can give you most of what AppleTV does, in a much tinier device. (And they can or may soon be able to play your music also.)

  5. jon vanhala

    thx for the post – i just did identical in las vegas at Adove Summit. question – what shoes are those? i have a very similar pair from Ecco that have been discontinued and trying to find a replacement

  6. Gili Golander

    I think a better solution would be if Apple and Sonos retained your configuration in their clouds. It’s kind of backwards for you to have to carry a physical device, when all you should have done is login with your credentials to the Apple TV in your AirBnB right?

    1. fredwilson


    2. scottythebody

      what would be really great is if you could just tap an app on your phone to automatically configure those services, too. Check into lodging, join wifi, open app and authorise with your face/thumb/passcode and automatic config of all devices is done (with a token instead of your real account info to avoid malicious devices). Apple already pretty much does this within their ecosystem, but I would never hold my breath that they would make it a standard 😛

    3. Pete Griffiths


  7. kenberger

    Airbnb? Thought you guys had a place here?(I happen to be staying nearby this week as can be seen from my Swarm checkins 🙂 )

    1. Mario Cantin

      I was wondering that too 🙂

    2. Richard

      The Wilsons are letting me borrow it for the season!

    3. sigmaalgebra

      Maybe the Wilsons say “I love NY” but not in the winter? It can get hot in NY, so maybe in the summers love Canada? So, maybe NY is for the spring and fall? But for the fall, want to love the trees in Upstate NY. So, NYC is just for the spring?

  8. Adam Parish

    Bonus whenever my Airbnb / VRBO has a Sonos speaker or two in the house.

  9. Richard

    Does anyone have a hack for getting access to ones paid spectrum cable account while traveling to watch SNY sports while on the road?

  10. Tom Labus

    It was spring yesterday in NYC but gone today

  11. northernlodge

    This does feel like something that could be solved with software. Like a Lastpass for account settings that can be used on any device and perhaps even building a virtual partition on the device for apps with your settings that are not natively hosted by the device

  12. Rob Pennoyer

    How about a cloud-based generic config management system, takes XML/JSON whatever, but supports variations on shared accounts, regions, multiple devices, etc. All you’d have to do is get everyone to support it, you know, via an API. Does Albert read your comments section?

    1. fredwilson

      when i suggest it

      1. Rob Pennoyer

        Well, loop him in and let’s get cracking. Let’s see, we’ll need $50k to build a proof of concept, then $500MM to run an advertising/lobbying campaign to get everyone to open their APIs.

  13. jason wright

    What is so essential about AppleTV that makes people want to cart this stuff around with them?

  14. Joseph Wiedmayer

    I would love to see the type of AirBnB a VC heavyweight like yourself stays in….

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  15. kenberger

    Chromecast.As discussed in many other comments here, Chromecast is really a game changer and has been for a long time now. Compared to Apple TV, it can do just about anything the same, albeit a little clunkier to andset up and maybe less robust, but once you have it going there’s very little that you miss.Gives the control to your smartphone, which in my mind is a plus. And for 35 bucks, you have the unit which includes the built-in HDMI cable, and simply always carry it in your laptop bag and you’ll have it anytime anywhere.I really feel like the problem discussed in this blog post is solved with this.there also used to be a Chromecast Audio which addressed the Sonos issue, but I think they discontinue that product a while ago

    1. sigmaalgebra

      What does Chromcast do, for $35?All of this sounds like the end of PCs, Windows, and Microsoft, and somehow I reluctant to believe that. Of course, that did happen with IBM.So, the future is the client side is just some little thing carry in a pocket, and all the rest is wireless and in the cloud?Uh, at least I’d like a good keyboard and a larger screen? What’s the solution there? Carry around a light weight but otherwise standard keyboard that has a USB connection? For a larger screen, carry that around, too. Get a client device with a USB port for the keyboard, has maybe HDMI for the screen, and the screen gets it power from somewhere? Or, just have the computer in the keyboard. Or just use a laptop?Computers have gotten smaller, but my fingers have not, and anything less good than a full keyboard, positioned so that I can see the keys, and with good key feel is super important for my typing. To me, a computer can’t get smaller than a good keyboard.Are smart phones really going to replace laptops, desktops, etc.?

  16. sigmaalgebra

    Never heard of Sonos or Sonos Connect. Found their Web site and tried to make sense of their products as their screens kept jumping around, covering up what I was trying to read. Useless. Eventually I got into a ‘chat’ session with one of their people. He kept talking “connect” and “streaming”.I never could make much sense about what he was saying so guessed: The context is an Internet connection with wireless and a smartphone with an app particular to Sonos. Sonos is basically an AC powered audio speaker product but that can get its audio input signal via wireless. The signal comes from a box, a Sonos Connect, that connects to the Internet, maybe via wireless, and goes to ‘music streaming’ sites such as Spotify, Pandora. Then can use the app to communicate with Sonos Connect to select, control what music is played. Some of the context is ‘streaming’ which is a lot like listening to a favorite, old FM music radio station or, for that matter, some Internet sites that do much the same.I’m big into music, but now mostly I use a PC for much of the effort. I have some AC powered speakers that are pretty good and some old audio equipment with a great AM, FM, radio and audio power amplifier. I can feed the thing with an audio signal and fill much of the house with the resulting sound. For the audio signal, I get that from a PC, and the PC gets the signal from CD, DVD, WAV, MP3, MP4 files, the Internet via a Web browser, etc.So, the Sonos guy and I agreed — I have no need for any of their products! We have lots of great audio amplifiers for great audio speakers, lots of AC powered audio speakers with the audio power amplifier inside the speaker box(es), PCs able to read music files from CD, DVD or get music from the Internet, etc. So, the advantage of Sonos seems to be wireless. Okay.Then I saw the AppleTV. So that goes to some Internet video source and plays that? Get to select what video source by using an app on a smartphone? The AppleTV gets its video signal from Sonos Connect? Sonos Connect gets the video signal from Netflix or some such or something Apple is providing?Apparently a big thing in TV is screens four feet wide that cover a big chunk of a wall, but the Apple TV looks small. So the AppleTV is for people only a few feet from the screen? AppleTV can be used as a larger video display for a signal from a smartphone?So, part of the idea is for people who travel, their computer is essentially just a smartphone and for storage, signals, etc. they use the Internet? So, don’t have to carry around a laptop PC?

  17. creative group

    CONTRIBUTORS:This has to be rich people issues.When traveling for business we don’t wing it and need to be focused on the business at hand. Reviewing previous post topics on vacation this would also be not in line with unplugging and enjoying the vacation.Here we go again. Stating the obvious.Captain Obvious!#UNEQUIVOCALLYUNAPOLOGETICALLYINDEPENDENT

  18. Joe Lazarus

    What kind of sneakers are those?

    1. fredwilson


      1. scottythebody

        I like ’em. Was going to ask.

  19. Matt Zagaja

    Haven’t tried this but will give it a shot on my next vacation. Seems like a great travel hack to me!

  20. DanaJ

    Where I come from (Romania), the streets are so dusty you couldn’t put your shoes directly into your luggage like that, you’d usually put them in a small plastic bag first. It’s always so surprising to me to see other people living in areas where the dust/pollution/spit/other waste on the ground is such that those bags aren’t needed. We have a long way to go, I guess.

  21. Jim Grey

    So many hotels have smart TVs now that my wife and I just keep logging into Amazon and Netflix wherever we travel. But last time the wifi went down during our stay and never came back up — and when I got home I had to change my passwords to log out of that smart TV. Pain in the neck. I’ve got a spare Roku lying around here; that goes with us from now on. Thanks for the great idea.

  22. jaygoldman

    I thought bringing an AppleTV to a hotel would be a great idea, especially on a ski trip with the kids. Then I discovered a small challenge with Apple TVs and hotel wifi: there’s no mechanism built into tvOS to deal with logging into a wifi network that has a captive portal.You’ll find you can connect to the network but there’s no browser or way to trigger the login screen so you can’t use the network. I suspect you’d have the same problem with a Chromecast though I haven’t tried.Apparently you can sometimes call the hotel tech support line and get them to register the device’s MAC address on the network but then you’d have to find the phone number and deal with them. Haven’t found a reliable tech solution yet but here are some options:You can sometimes share your internet connection from a laptop over wifi if you can hard wire it over Ethernet.If you’re technically inclined enough to use XCode and build a tvOS, this gives you a browser on the AppleTV: https://github.com/jvanakke…. I found the app build easy enough (and you apparently no longer need to edit header files), but the app itself a little unreliable.You can also spoof the MAC address of the device from a laptop first and register it on the network (see https://gist.github.com/rsk…. Haven’t tried this one yet.Good luck! Let us know how it works out.

    1. Patrick

      I usually use my laptop to create a private wifi network, but I know that using a separate travel router is also popular.I don’t have first hand experience with it, but this one looks pretty solid.

      1. jaygoldman

        That’s a great tip @patrick94305:disqus ! Thanks for sharing it. I’ve ordered the TP-Link pocket router and will report back.

  23. Ana Milicevic

    Lately I’ve been staying in a bunch of hotels who all tout that they have Netflix and Amazon Prime Video. What they have are smart TVs where you’re welcome to then input your own credentials (ugh!) or kick off the Nth free trial (also ugh because of poor input interfaces). This notion of an on-the-move viewer really shouldn’t be such an edge case anymore; I wish each of these services would let you easily (temporarily) authenticate on a new device (eg by scanning a QR code w/ your phone where you’re already logged in/authenticated).

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