Opinion Brief

Steve Jobs' final project: A 'revolutionary' Apple TV set?

According to a new biography, the late Apple icon had figured out a way to change the way we watch television

The late Steve Jobs revolutionized the way we interact with data and music with his focus on an elegant interface and clean, simple design. According to the new biography, Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson, the Apple icon next planned to change the way we watch television. "He very much wanted to do for television sets what he had done for computers, music players, and phones," Isaacson writes. "'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.'" While Apple already offers a set-top box, the Apple TV, it's widely acknowledged as a hobby project and a niche product. Will we soon see a "revolutionary" TV set from Apple?

Access to content is an issue: Apple could probably develop, or already has developed, the hardware and software to make Jobs' plan work, but what about content? asks Marguerite Reardon at CNET. To really take over the TV industry, Apple would have to offer something unique in terms of content, and that wouldn't be easy. The iPod would be nothing without iTunes and how it totally changed the music industry. An Apple-branded TV would need to do something similar; too bad Apple has a historically "strained relationship with the TV networks.""Was Jobs' next big thing an integrated Apple TV?"

Maybe Siri would be involved: It's "easy to see how Apple's Siri technology could play a role in creating the "simplest user interface you could imagine" in a TV set," says John P. Mello Jr. at PC World. "What could be simpler than talking to your TV when you want it to do something?' Instead of fumbling with a remote control, you'd simply tell your Apple TV Set to fast-forward through the commercials or put your favorite show on.  "Apple TV set was Jobs' last tech frontier"

It would be "evolutionary, not revolutionary": It's pretty safe to say that "there's one thing that will absolutely not be built into the television: a DVR," says Robert Seidman at Zap 2 It. That's a big problem for me, and, I suspect, the 42 percent of U.S. households that rely on them. Even if you could control the TV with Siri, "it won't be magical for me" if I can't record my favorite programs. But Apple is unlikely to make that a feature, given that they're in the business of selling TV shows on iTunes. "Don't hold your breath for a 'Jesus TV' from Apple

If anybody could revolutionize the TV, it would be Jobs: "Jobs surely must have thought he could improve the current television experience in a meaningful way," and it certainly needs some improvement, says Bill Palmer at Beatweek Magazine. Many of the "smart TVs" are awful to use. I recently tried a Sony model running Google Chrome, and it was a struggle for both me and the person attempting to demonstrate it. The remote had tons of buttons and an awkward thumbwheel. "No one seems to know what the right interface is," when it comes to these new super TVs, "except maybe Jobs." "Siri TV: Steve Jobs biography suggests final mission was Apple TV sets"

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