Ever since Apple released the iPad, people have been speculating about what Apple would do next.
After revolutionizing the mobile phone with the iPhone, and the PC with the iPad, many expect Apple to revolutionise the TV.
Apple analyst Gene Munster has been the loudest proponent of the idea that Apple will be doing a television.
Two years ago he said, “It will be the biggest thing in consumer electronics since the smartphone,” and he described it by saying, “Imagine just a sheet of glass” — “no edges or bevels.”
He was predicting it would be out by 2013. But, it never happened.
There’s new information that suggests Apple may not ever get into the television business.
The Wall Street Journal’s former Apple beat reporter, Yukari Iwatani Kane, has a new book about Apple called “Haunted Empire: Apple After Steve Jobs“.
In her book she says Jobs told his top executives before he died that he had no plan to release a television because it’s a bad business.
Every year Apple hosts a “Top 100” meeting, which gathers the top 100 executives, managers, and employees. As will all things Apple, the top 100 meeting is supposed to be secretive.
Jobs would give people a month’s notice before a top 100 happened. The Apple staff would then be bused to a resort where they would give presentations on Apple’s business. New products were often revealed. No one was to email outsiders, even Apple employees, or tweet or anything while at the meeting.
In 2010, Jobs hosted his final Top 100 meeting. Apple revealed the iPad 2 and its magnetic cover in the meeting. When Jobs did a Q&A on the new iPad, all the executives were fawning over the cover.
“Enough with the f***ing cover!” Jobs finally said. “Can we talk about the iPad?”
At the time Jobs quite sick, and it was apparent. He wasn’t chewing out employees during their presentations like he normally did. He was having trouble walking, and he looked weak.
Yukari reports on the last day of the meeting, Jobs sat in front of the room with everyone and said, “You’ve got Steve Jobs sitting right here. You’re my guys, you can ask me anything you want. I don’t care how dumb it is or how insulting it is. I want to make you all feel comfortable about whatever questions you have about the company.”
One person asked if Apple was going to release a television next. There were already rumours all over the place that it was Apple’s next conquest.
Yukari says “Jobs didn’t hesitate.” He said, “No.”
“TV is a terrible business. They don’t turn over and the margins suck,” said Jobs. (Unlike iPhones which are wildly profitable and replaced every two years, a TV gets replaced every 8 years, and isn’t all that profitable.)
He did want to control the living room, though, he said. He also said the Apple TV, the little video streaming box, would remain a hobby until Apple got all the content it needed.
Yukari says that some people in room believed Jobs’ comments on TV. Others, the “veterans in the room” weren’t sure that Jobs really meant it. Those people thought it was a message from Jobs to focus on what they were doing instead of trying to think of the next thing too quickly.
It’s been over three years since Jobs made those comments, and Apple still doesn’t have a television. There’s been reports this year of Apple revamping its TV strategy, but it all centres on the Apple TV, which is the little box that plugs into the TV, not a full, 60-inch HD iTelevision.
Therefore, it seems like Jobs may have been genuine when he told his top 100 employees he didn’t want to do a television.
But, Jobs comments to Apple execs are at odds with what he told his biographer Walter Isaacson. Before he died he said, “I’d like to create an integrated television set that is completely easy to use … It would be seamlessly synced with all of your devices and with iCloud … It will have the simplest user interface you could imagine. I finally cracked it.”
Jobs was famous for saying one thing and then doing another. In this case, it’s hard to know which quote was the truth. Was he telling the truth to Isaacson, or to his Apple’s top 100 employees?