One of the most revealing things that came out of Walter Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs was the fact that he “finally cracked” how to make a great interface for television.
This immediately cracked open a bunch of reports and rumours about an Apple television coming in late 2012 or early 2013.
Yet, if you read the actual passage in Isaacson’s book, it’s very short and very vague:
And 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.”
Speaking at a breakfast meeting this morning hosted by Fortune Isaacson was asked to expand on this little passage. Was Jobs talking about building a television? What did it mean?
Isaacson hemmed a bit, saying that the last three things Jobs worked on before dying were 1. textbooks, 2. digital photography, and 3. televisions. Unfortunately, Isaacson was more interested in talking about textbooks because that’s a subject closer to his heart. So he didn’t really press Jobs on talking about the TV market.
He also didn’t want to reveal anything too proprietary about Apple’s plans for the television business. Out of respect for Jobs and Apple, but also because products go through many iterations before they hit the market. Just because Jobs said one thing one day to Isaacson didn’t mean it was what was going to come out next year.
He reiterated what was in the passage from the book:
- Isaacson suggest iCloud was going to be a big part of what happened with any Apple television product. He said Jobs realised the digital hub had moved from the computer to the cloud.
- Jobs said the interfaces on TVs are too complicated and that needs to be fixed. He wants the TV to be as simple and intuitive as the iPad. He wanted to make devices as simple as possible.
So, those are the broad “philosophical strokes.” He added later on, that it’s not like Jobs sat down with Isaacson and said, “I’ve figured it out and here’s how it’s done.”
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