Has Jobs ‘finally cracked’ TV?

Andy Ihnatko, Macworld
13 February, 2012
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The holiday season is finally over. No more uncomfortable social situations in which people normally greet us with the words, “So what do you think the new iPhone is going to be like?”

It’s not an offensive question, trust me. I could answer that question. The ones that electrify me with blind panic are questions like, “Hey, have you met my wife, Angela?” (Looks kind of familiar. She seems to be smiling at me, as though anticipating recognition. Or is that hairstyle making me think of someone else?)

I spent the product-release-free days in quiet contemplation of an Apple-branded HDTV. For years, it’s been just something that sort of made sense. But it got kicked into the bigs with the publication of Walter Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs, in which he’s quoted as talking about his desire for an integrated television set.

“It will have the simplest user interface you could imagine. I finally cracked it,” he was quoted as saying.

Surely not since Pierre de Fermat scribbled “I have discovered a truly marvellous proof of this, which this margin is too narrow to contain” next to his favourite mathematical brain-baffler has a single line in a book provoked so much heavy thought from so many.

Me? I’m still more than slightly baffled. I’d still be dismissing the Apple HDTV as nothing more than a trial balloon in some Apple lab if not for these words from the man himself.

The current Apple TV makes perfect sense. It’s a tiny $129 box that turns any HDTV into an IR-controlled iOS device. It increases the value of everything else you buy from Apple, which is Feature One of any addition to the company’s product line. The media you buy from iTunes gets to play on the big screen and the good speakers.

Your iOS and MacOS devices get a huge wireless display; your iPad, iPhone and iPod touch virtually become console gaming systems.

It’d be wonderful if Apple brought innovation to television simply in the form of licensing. In the US, I have hundreds of cable channels available to me right now but I only actually care about 12 of them. If Apple worked out how to license those channels independently and allowed me to simply subscribe to them a-la-carte via channel-specific iOS apps, that’d be a huge win.

Siri search would be incredible on a TV. “Play last night’s episode of The Big Bang Theory,” I would say into my Bluetooth audio-enabled remote. And given that the HDTV is the biggest screen in the house, it’s a focal point for family activity and a natural hub for iCloud to project information into.

But what would an integrated TV provide that an Apple TV-and-panel can’t? Conceptually, a fully integrated design is more  elegant. But honestly, you plug an Apple TV into an HDMI port and then you never ever have to deal with it again.

Then there are the problems of carrying enough sizes and enough price points to keep the marketplace happy.

I try to think of opportunities that an HDTV would deliver to Apple – and to users – that a future Apple TV couldn’t. An integrated FaceTime camera?

A huge AirPort antenna?

How about a touchscreen? Naw.

Apple’s already said that it doesn’t think touchscreens work on big displays.

I don’t think an Apple HDTV will really be about the hardware, anyway. It’ll be about the software and the content, which are the keys to any Apple product. We’ll see…

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