For years, Apple watchers and pundits were convinced the company was hard at work on a television set of some sort.
Much of that speculation stemmed from Walter Isaacson’s 2011 biography of Steve Jobs, which quoted the Apple co-founder as saying he’d finally figured out how to build a next-generation television:
“I’d like to create an integrated television set that is completely easy to use,” [Jobs] told [Isaacson]. “It would be seamlessly synced with all of your devices and with iCloud.” No longer would users have to fiddle with complex remotes for DVD players and cable channels. “It will have the simplest user interface you could imagine. I finally cracked it.”
Following the release of Isaacson’s book, analysts such as Gene Munster breathlessly predicted that Apple would release a television set. After all, hadn’t Jobs told his biographer that he’d figured out how to build an ideal one?
Sure, he’d told Isaacson he was working on something; the problem is, he told top Apple employees that no such project was in the works. Wall Street Journal reporter Yukari Iwatani Kane’s new book, “Haunted Empire: Apple After Steve Jobs,” recounts how Jobs took the stage at a company meeting in 2010 to answer questions from executives in the audience. When one asked him about the possibility of releasing a television set, Jobs said: “No.”
Just to pound a couple more nails into that coffin, Jobs reportedly offered a follow-up: “TV is a terrible business. They don’t turn over and the margins suck.”
What to make of these apparently contradictory statements? It might come down to semantics. Isaacson never quotes Jobs as saying anything about Apple building television hardware. Is it possible that, when Jobs opined on user interfaces and iCloud and hardware syncing, he was referring to a next-generation Apple TV, a device that could plug into other manufacturers’ television sets to deliver a superior experience?
That seems likely in light of the latest rumors suggesting that Apple has a major revamp of Apple TV in the works. In a recent posting, the Apple-centric blog 9to5Mac suggested that upgrades to the system could include a revamped operating system based on iOS, an App Store with games, and (perhaps) motion-based input controls reminiscent of the Xbox’s Kinect system.
In any case, it’ll be interesting to see if analysts keep insisting, after this point, that a television set is in the works.