Do You Want Or Need An Apple Television? Even Apple Doesn’t Want To Make A TV

What’s Apple’s highest profile hobby? It’s Apple TV. Yes, it’s a low cost way to bring content from Mac, iPhone, iPad, and iTunes onto your home television screen. And, yes, Apple sells Apple TVs by the millions at $99 each. So what?

What we all want and think we need is an Apple television, right? Maybe we do and maybe we do not.

Why would Apple want to get into the television manufacturing business? It’s a cut throat business with high volume requirements and low margins. While every family may want and need a television, we don’t want or need the latest TV every year or two or three (the way we buy iPhones, iPads, and even the Mac).

The shelf life for a television set is much longer than our typical Apple gadget, so let me make a prediction. No Apple television.

Wait a minute. Didn’t Steve Jobs tell biographer Walter Isaacson that Apple would revolutionize television? Doesn’t that imply an Apple television? Gordon Kelly in Trusted Reviews dug a little deeper and it turns out that we’re expecting something that Jobs didn’t say Apple would build.

Jobs to Isaacson:

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.

That seems to indicate that Jobs wanted Apple to build a television set, yet it flies in the face of what is happening in the set-building industry. Nobody makes any real money building television sets.

Revolutionizing television doesn’t mean building a better mousetrap. The revolution may already have begun with two important Apple components. The diminutive and inexpensive Apple TV. And, AirPlay, the Apple technology which streams whatever is on your iPhone, iPad, or Mac screen to an existing HD TV.

What’s missing that would revolutionize the TV industry? On demand content, and a drop dead easy to use interface that delivered that content to the screen. Apple is a recognized leader in content distribution, and Apple is a recognized leader in elegant interface design.

All that’s missing is the content. And the interface. Without the content, the interface doesn’t have anything to do. The technology already exists to stream content, any content, on demand. But getting all the content players together is like herding cats.

It’s fun to watch, but it’s not so easy to do. Cable companies, television networks, movie production companies, and TV show producers are like cats. They don’t like to be herded, and getting them to bend to Apple’s will, the way the music industry did, has proven to be difficult for Apple.

No Apple television. Who needs it? If Apple can get content on demand, and park a Steve Jobs inspired interface to the app that turns on the magic, humankind will be better for the effort.

Meanwhile, I’m not holding my breath.


  1. I recently purchased a cheap Samsung flatscreen unit for the guest bedroom. The technical documentation was terse and cryptic in equal measure, and the onscreen function controls (accessed through the remote) were arcane, almost recursively nested, aggressively counterintuitive. I’m not competent to judge whether an Apple TV is a realistic business proposition, but I wish Apple could somehow raise the bar for the TV user interface. I’d pay the Apple premium (well, second generation) for that.

  2. Most of the technology pieces are in place. So is much of the content–I read some of CBS is coming to Hulu. Apple doesn’t need to make “big glass”. Better/smarter to continue to refine/re-define the TV experience through the little black box–cheaper & easier to build, upgrade the OS, adjust the UI; expand content offerings, stream one’s own content over WiFi from a Mac/PC via iTunes and it’s even portable–take it with on a trip & use with an iPad or iPhone! I’d get a couple and even give them as gifts.