Apple television, the next great unicorn chase

Apple television, the next great unicorn chase

Now that we have the iPhone and iPad, the next great unicorn to chase seems to be an Apple television. Not the Apple TV set top box, mind you, but a full on elegant glass and aluminium object de panel art from Jony Ive and co. Something to hang on our wall and banish cables and crummy cable boxes from our living rooms once and for all.

When last we got analyst-fueled Apple television rumors, it turned out to be the 27-inch iMac. This time, however, we have a nebulous passage from the just-released Steve Jobs biography to properly set the chase in motion:

“He very much wanted to do for television sets what he had done for computers, music players, and phones: make them simple and elegant. I’d like to create an integrated television set that is completely easy to use,’ he told me. ‘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."

Interface is only one of the things Apple will have to crack, however. Content is called king for a reason. A gorgeously designed, cunningly coded TV set only goes so far if you can't get your sports, your specialty channels and special events, and everything else cable and satellite currently has an locked up in their oligopoly.

Bloomberg, however, has added another face to the chase:

Apple Inc. (AAPL) is turning to the software engineer who built iTunes to help lead its development of a television set, according to three people with knowledge of the project. Jeff Robbin, who helped create the iPod in addition to the iTunes media store, is now guiding Apple’s internal development of the new TV effort, said the people, who declined to be identified because his role isn’t public.

Now don't get me wrong -- from 2007 to 2010 I went from a Treo 650 to an iPhone 4S yet my TV has pretty much the same crappy Scientific Atlanta PVR. If any dinosaur of an industry needs to get hit by the Apple meteorite and turned into the fossil fuel of the future, it's television. The idea of an Apple engineered and programmed television is enticing -- though my wallet threatens to punch me in the nose at the mere thought of lining up every year for that multi-thousand dollar product launch. It's just trickier to see what an Apple television would be to a current Sony or Samsung set, as opposed to what an iPhone was to Treo or iPad to Tablet PC. It's tricky to see what it would do that an Apple TV box couldn't, aside from being neater and tidier.

Of course Apple probably has all sorts of products in the lab. Their success, however, has come from not shipping something until they knew how to go to market with it. The Apple TV is called a hobby for a reason, and at $100 it or carefully calling it a hobby in the meantime. iPhone took them years. iPad years more. Conceivably Apple could pull the trigger on a television as soon as 2012, but until Tim Cook and co. show it off on stage, just like chasing unicorns, it's just flights of fun and fancy.

Source: Bloomberg

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Rene Ritchie

EiC of iMore, EP of Mobile Nations, Apple analyst, co-host of Debug, Iterate, Vector, Review, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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Reader comments

Apple television, the next great unicorn chase


"Apple Inc. (AAPL) is turning to the software engineer who built iTunes to help lead its development of a television set"
God no, please someone other than the one responsible for that piece of bloatware...

I can think of two safe bets:
1) There won't be any remote control. You'll have Siri.
2) There will be a Kinect-like hardware so you'll use gestures for mundane actions like: de/activate Siri, play/pause, volume up/down.

Apple has gotten pretty sophisticated when it comes to noise cancellation and speech recognition (look at how well Siri performs in noisy environments). If anyone can pull this off, Apple can.

Siri SUCKS in NOISY areas , what are you talkin about ?
plus a TV device has its own extra noise coming out, so I dont see this happening ;)

Siri SUCKS in NOISY areas , what are you talkin about ?
plus a TV device has its own extra noise coming out, so I dont see this happening ;)

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But for what reason?
If it's to make a tv "simple" much more simpler can it get? You get a tv, plug in a cable, bam. Done.
If it's to loosen the strongholds the cable companies have...I doubt that also. The music industry had no choice, physical media was going to be gone. There's multiple ways to get that. Cable...not so much. You can say Netflix and Hulu...but that's something not everyone can access.
I just don't see the catalyst for an Apple TV to take off. I mean it will sell, don't get me wrong...but not at the rate where it will disrupt the status quo.
And don't get me wrong again, I'm no proponent of cable (I use netflix and internet to get my tv fix), but I just don't see this making a change.

Then I'm pretty sure the cable company isn't blind and sees how the music company giving such power to Apple turned out. Apple, for all intents and purposes, owns music. There are no other challengers. So they have to pretty much play ball with Apple
Cable isn't going to let that happen.

Televisions are already simple enough: Channel up, channel down, volume up, volume down, power. It's the connecting components that drive the power behind them.
Apple should continue improving on their current iteration of AppleTV, making that the hub of the living room. I don't want/need a computer in my television, I'll leave those in the pieces that connect to it.
Also, I wouldn't want to be required to "jailbreak" my television set to watch non Apple-approved content.

This will be MUCH bigger than just computers in your TV. Imagine Apple TV in a much bigger scale, with a TV that is like what ipod to Walkman ;)

I would much rather see an Apple DVR than a TV. Can't see a whole lot that could be improved in a tv.

It will be interesting to see if and when this happens and if it will take off since the TV market is already crowded.

"I find it extremely hard for me to see how Apple can revolutionize TV."
Its called 4D!! You not only see depth, but you whats going to happen on the show before it even happends!