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Apple chief resisted idea of Apple smart TV

Walter Isaacson provided perhaps the most definitively sourced evidence that an Apple, Inc. (AAPL) smart TV was in the works.  Interviewing Steven Paul "Steve" Jobs in his best-selling biography Steve Jobs, Mr. Isaacson quoted the late executive as stating:

I'd like to create an integrated television set that is completely easy to use.  It would be seamlessly synced with all of your devices and with iCloud.  It will have the simplest user interface you could imagine. I finally cracked it.

While a new book by Wall Street Journal reporter Yukari Kane -- Haunted Empire: Apple After Steve Jobs -- doesn't go as far as to say Mr. Jobs had no intention to build the rumored Apple TV, his research suggests that Mr. Jobs' sentiments on the topic were more mixed that Mr. Isaacson's quote suggests.

At the 2010 annual Apple meeting of the company's top 100 executives, an executive allegedly asked the ailing tech icon if an Apple-branded TV set was in the works.  Mr. Kane quotes Mr. Jobs as responding immediately "no", and then elaborating:

TV is a terrible business. They don't turn over and the margins suck.

Apple TV Shiny

Of course Mr. Jobs also infamously said:

7-inch tablets are tweeners, too big to compete with a smartphone and too small to compete with an iPad.  [Increasing screen resolution on small devices is] meaningless, unless your tablet also includes sandpaper, so that the user can sand down their fingers to around one quarter of the present size.

A year after Mr. Jobs' death in Oct. 2012, Apple launched the iPad Mini.

So whether or not Mr. Kane's new account shows that Steve Jobs was convinced Apple TV wasn't ready for prime time, it doesn't necessarily means that his successor, Apple CEO Timothy Donald "Tim" Cook, won't look to roll it out in years to come.

Source: Business Insider

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Steve is right
By esteinbr on 3/17/2014 5:27:04 PM , Rating: 3
I think fundamentally Steve Jobs is right. A TV is something that should last a while and just isn't a good fit for integration with an embedded computer which has a much shorter cycle. It just doesn't make sense to spend extra on a TV for functionality that will quickly be outdated and needs constant software updates to stay up to date on new streaming sources and to maintain compatibility with existing sources. A separate box is a much better option. I expect my tv to last 5+ years but a streaming box may not be able to manage that with all the changes that can happen in just a couple years.

On top of that I think that it really is an unsolvable problem. Not due to technical issues, as I'm sure a company could overcome those, but because of having to deal with content providers and distributors. You can't give your users a good feature set, common interface and what they want when the people controlling that content won't allow you to do it. Look at google TV or Dish and the Hopper. Both have tried to give users a small piece of what they want and have faced lawsuits or lost functionality because the providers didn't like them.

RE: Steve is right
By hughlle on 3/17/2014 5:55:32 PM , Rating: 2
I think it's less to do with the computer side of it becoming redundant, than the fact that once you buy a tv, the typical owner will keep it till it is too small, or fails. that is many years. The time frame between replacing a tv and upgrading or replacing a laptop or home-use imac, is very different. As time goes by, computers need more ram, better graphic, a more powerful cpu, better software, you name it. Which as sales show, often leads to new purchases. which could be every year, every 2 years, maybe every 3 years depending on the user. A tv however, is typically bought as a "long term" purchase. Most people do nto buy a tv and think i'll buy a new one next year etc, they look at their house, decide they can fit a 42" tv in without it being over the top or too small, and they run it till it needs to be replaced.

TV's do not have the turnover rate that makes it appealing to a company like apple who have a yearly turnover rate due to must have better new latest syndrome as seen with their phones and tablets. Why invest in a product that might be replaced every 5+ years when they can focus their resources on something that a huge number of people insist on upgrading every year.

RE: Steve is right
By esteinbr on 3/17/2014 6:32:45 PM , Rating: 2
I don't disagree but ironically I think that is why we are getting Smart TV's shoved down our throats by most mfgs now. They are trying to find any justification they can for us to buy new models. Everything is 1080p with relatively small bezels and fairly thin so they can't really do much more there. 3d seems to have fizzles and 4k is still waiting on content so we're getting smart TV's with what ever crazy features they can come up with.

RE: Steve is right
By hughlle on 3/17/2014 6:56:26 PM , Rating: 2
Yet i can't name one person i've met who has said, hey, our tv isn't good enough, it's not a smart tv. I know people who have bought them, because they were in the market for a new tv anyway, but i don't know anyone who has upgraded because they wanted a smart tv. Most folk already have all the boxes and gizmos to make a smart tv fairly redundant.

Seems that tv makers are trying everything to get us to buy a new one. 3d, smart, curved, hand gesture. A tv is not like a computer. If it displays your videos, then it displays your videos. Computers have all number of things they might need to be upgraded for because they "aren't" fast enough. Hell, when it comes to computers, people are so naive that they upgrade because they think it is their hardware making youtube slow, not the absurd amou/nt of rubbish they've installed along the way. Not the same with a tv, if it shows the video, job done.

RE: Steve is right
By wordsworm on 3/17/2014 11:57:08 PM , Rating: 2
Now you can go onto craigslist to find a lot of old free LCD tvs. New TVs are immensely better, and they're not so expensive. Windows 8 is the first MS OS that can make an old machine run better (rather than upping requirements.) So, I can't see why they wouldn't put $100 worth of computer hardware into a TV to boost its value.

RE: Steve is right
By Samus on 3/18/2014 2:30:09 AM , Rating: 2
Just think how many people keep their monitors though many different computer's. Most office PC's I come across still have 2005-era LCD's, many of which are still 4:3. They've probably been though at least two computers with that monitor.

TV's are the same way. You hook up a content delivery device and simply use them as a monitor.

The Apple TV is probably as far as a TV product as Apple should make.

However, this is a somewhat hypocritical statement from Steve Jobs, being that practically all Apple computer products have an integrated screen (iMac, Macbook, Macbook Air, iPad, iPhone) and the CPU will obviously become outdated before the screen does. To make my point, all of these products cost more than most TV's, even 55" Smart TV's.

RE: Steve is right
By NellyFromMA on 3/18/2014 8:12:43 AM , Rating: 2
Haha, not to throw fuel onto the fire as I mostly agree with what you're saying, but...

A year ago I bought a 32 inch Samsung 1080P smart TV for 300. It was a really good deal and I needed a second TV and stumbled on it at walmart.

It's "smart" functionality sucks in general, with the exception of two KILLER FEATURES IMO.

1) There's a Netflix App. I use this in my bedroom ALL THE TIME and it's great because it works wirelessly.

2) Using Serviio or Plex I can stream my entire PC video library to my TV seamlessly.

I'm just saying, those two features completely Eclipse how generally sh1tty the rest of the "smart features" work.

Best 300 I spent. I also have no cable, only internet so take that for what its worth.

RE: Steve is right
By aliasfox on 3/18/2014 10:58:44 AM , Rating: 2
So maybe it makes sense for a 32" TV that runs $300, but what about the 60" that runs $1500? If the computer-side of it becomes outdated, a 32" TV can be shifted to another bedroom, an office, or easily put into storage. If the same thing were to happen to a 60" SmartTV, there are far fewer options that people would want to entertain.

Fundamentally, what manufacturers are trying to figure out is how to combine two low margin segments (entry-level computing and TVs) into one higher margin segment. They might just end up shooting themselves in the foot and having to eat the $50-100 cost of electronics because people will simply start expecting these features in the future.

Personally, I think a separate box is a better idea (especially something the size of a Chromecast that's practically invisible) - I'd rather upgrade a $35 HDMI stick or $100 AppleTV every two years then go out and get a new big screen just because someone decides to stop updating Netflix or Hulu or whatnot.

RE: Steve is right
By NellyFromMA on 3/18/2014 12:50:54 PM , Rating: 2
Yeah definitely wouldn't pay a perceived "premium" for the "smart" features. But, in the value market, it's a somewhat different story in my experience.

My choices essentially were between the Samsung and like models w/o smart capablity

Anything can be valuable at the right price.

RE: Steve is right
By Solandri on 3/18/2014 2:40:59 PM , Rating: 2
So maybe it makes sense for a 32" TV that runs $300, but what about the 60" that runs $1500? If the computer-side of it becomes outdated, a 32" TV can be shifted to another bedroom, an office, or easily put into storage. If the same thing were to happen to a 60" SmartTV, there are far fewer options that people would want to entertain.

How does the computer side become outdated? We're not talking about running the latest 3D game. The computer in the TV just decodes video streams. In fact even if it's not a smart TV, it has a computer in there to decode video streams (QAM for cable, ATSC for over the air). Making a TV "smart" is just the manufacturer adding some additional software, with maybe a slight hardware upgrade.

I completely agree the "smart" in smart TVs isn't a premium feature, and manufacturers are kidding themselves trying to price them as such. But other than some of the pre-programmed video providers going out of business, I don't really see how this part of the TV can become outdated with time. I suppose some of the newer codecs that achieve better compression ratios might need a more powerful CPU. But that typically happens on a 7-10 year timeframe (MPEG2 for DVDs, to MPEG4 in the interim, to H.264 for Blu-ray), which is about how often you'd replace the TV anyway.

RE: Steve is right
By aliasfox on 3/18/2014 3:40:12 PM , Rating: 2
How does the computer side become outdated?

Say Netflix changes a codec, or authentication methodology, or encryption, or just decides to do things differently. On a computer, this isn't a big deal because your browser will simply take you to the webpage and it's all handled on the backend. On large platforms like Android and iOS, not an issue because Netflix will take care of those apps.

What about the Samsung Smart TV that sold 10k units two years ago? You paid $2-300 extra for 'smart' features and now you can't access Netflix.

This has happened with bluray players (not getting firmware updates to play the latest movies), smartphones (not getting ICS, JB, KK, etc), and lots of other things. Cheap blu ray players can be replaced for $200 or less, cell phones get replaced every two years or so regardless, but what about that TV that you dropped 'real' money on and expected to get on Netflix for as long as you paid for the subscription?

RE: Steve is right
By Da W on 3/18/2014 9:06:11 AM , Rating: 2
Apple could still enter the buisness of 4k displays. iSheeps would certainly jump on the bandwagon and Apple could help kickstart the 4k evolution. 4k is not much more than their iMac display. In fact, haven't they got beyond that already?

The problem is all about the integrated SoC. Best option would be to have a replacable SoC, but that's not Apple's way of doing thing. Second best is an outdide box, they have it already.

Down the road, may its own A7x soc or A8x or A9x will be powerful enought to power smart tv functions without being outdated in 2-3 years.

RE: Steve is right
By JohnO1961 on 3/18/2014 11:01:13 AM , Rating: 2
The amount of time people own a television is dropping every year. A television used to be considered a piece of furniture. Now it's just another home gadget. It all depends on the price point. Once they are no longer considered an "investment" and simply a purchase, they will become disposable and replaceable.

RE: Steve is right
By sorry dog on 3/18/2014 9:20:14 PM , Rating: 2
I don't see the price of TV's maybe dropping, but so are the number of hours of TV watched. Sure maybe I can afford to buy a slightly larger TV considering you can get 50" for less than $600, but there are many other entertainment items vying for my disposable dollars. If my old no name 37 keeps doing the job, I'm not likely to replace it until it or the bedroom 32 breaks. The bigger TV for same money trend is gotta be hard on profit margins...

"If you can find a PS3 anywhere in North America that's been on shelves for more than five minutes, I'll give you 1,200 bucks for it." -- SCEA President Jack Tretton

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