Steve Jobs’ ‘one more thing’ – an Apple television – is on its way

25 Oct 2011

Apple co-founder and former CEO Steve Jobs

The revelation in Walter Isaacson’s biography of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs that Jobs had finally ‘cracked it’ in relation to the much-anticipated Apple TV hardware has led to a flurry of speculation that Apple is indeed working on such a product with Siri capabilities that may debut late 2012 or early 2013.

An Apple-conceived television set happens to be the one unrealised and obvious product that is within Apple’s grasp to create if you think about its knowledge of the display market, the internet, Hollywood and that one guiding design principle that has made the iPhone, iPod and iPad such game changers – design, not in just the visual sense but the functional sense.

Many would argue that the TV hardware business is cannibalising itself and has become a low-margin, commodity business.

Yet that could also have been said of the mobile phone business long before the iPhone came along. What makes Apple great is it makes products people desire and love. Before the iPhone, who could actually say they loved their phone?

Many commentators, including myself, have argued that the TV business could be ripe for Apple to re-invent. But at times it seemed so obvious – a low-hanging fruit, no pun intended.

But since Isaacson’s biography, Steve Jobs, was published last week, there is a growing belief in the tech media is that an Apple-conceived TV – yes, an actual TV rather than the Apple TV set top box – is coming sooner than you’d think.

According to Isaacson’s book, Jobs had finally ‘cracked it’. He had found a way for people to enjoy TV and online content without the need for a multitude of complicated remote controls.

Here’s what Jobs said: “I’d like to create an integrated television set that is completely easy to use. It would be seamlessly synched with all of your devices and with iCloud. It will have the simplest user interface you could imagine. I finally cracked it.”

Some analysts, including Piper Jaffray’s Gene Munster, believe such a product may arrive in late 2012 or early 2013.

Imagine a TV that searches for programmes by voice using Siri’s artificial intelligence. Imagine switching from the 9 o’clock news to your latest YouTube search or a movie downloaded on Netflix by just talking to your TV.

According to Bloomberg, Apple is turning to software engineer Jeff Robbin, who helped create the iPod and the iTunes media store to lead the development of an Apple TV set that would harmoniously synchronise content with other devices like iPads and iPhones.

This is getting very interesting. TV may never be the same again.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years