Posted on Friday, November 11th, 2011 by Peter Sciretta
As it has been widely known and rumored for a while now, Apple has been working to revolutionize the television set. Steve Jobs’ final project was trying to create a product that would change the tv world, the same way the iphone changed the world of mobile smart phones. Jobs told Walter Isaacson in his recently published biography that he had finally “cracked it” after years of trying to solve the problem:
“‘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.’”
The recent release of the iPhone 4s has gotten some to believe that the voice powered Siri software might be part of the solution, which may be true, but I believe it is much more complex than that. Now Sony has come forward and announced that they have also been developing a “different kind of TV set” in their race to beat Steve Jobs to the new television revolution.
Sony’s CEO Sir Howard Stringer revealed during a breakfast hosted by The Wall Street Journal that he has “no doubt” that Apple is working on a revolutionary television set, but says they will need to beat Sony’s own efforts:
“I spent the last five years building a platform so I can compete against Steve Jobs. It’s finished, and it’s launching now.” … “There’s a tremendous amount of R&D going into a different kind of TV set,” and “it will take a long time to transition to a new form of television.”
Analysts have predicted that Apple’s new television set won’t arrive until 2013. Sony seems to have their finger on the button and is “launching now”, whatever that means. I think we’ll see two very different competing visions of the future. Apple has been known to go for the more simple approach, remotes with only a few buttons, menus with a limited amount of icons, all features streamlined, while Sony is more tech-heavy, tons of buttons, confusing interfaces…etc. But again, its also rumored that Jeff Robbin, who created iTunes and co-developed the iPod, is spearheading development on the integrated television set — and every Apple user knows that iTunes is the clunkiest and most complicated thing Apple has released in recent years.
Logitech just dubbed their attempt, the Google TV box, “a big mistake.”
If I had to guess what Apple’s iTV might be, I would say that it will connect all the content on your cable box and the internet, putting everything in one easily accessible place. It will connect all your devices and make them easily controlled with one simple remote. You’ll be able to search “Star Trek” and see a listing of available content across your networks — tv show episodes on Netflix Instant, a movie on demand on the HBO Go app, or another movie which is going to air tonight on cable television. There will be an app store, which will provide you with content via subscription pricing: You’ll have all of HBO’s content via the HBO Go app for a monthly cost. Same with Hulu Plus, Netflix and possibly even other tv channels. You will be able to mix and match the content you want, and possibly even be able to get rid of your cable box completely. Your remote, likely your ipad, iphone, or an itouch, will be able to choose what you want to watch, and the television will do all the work of changing inputs and turning on devices (likely through a built in IR blaster which will control your other devices for you). And sure, Siri will enable you to press a button and say “I want to watch Star Trek” instead of mess with any annoying on screen keyboards. Of course, this is just what I think Apple is planning.