Not Steve Jobs’ most important comment during last night’s earnings call, but still interesting: Apple’s (AAPL) chief admits no one has succeeded yet at bridging your living room TV with the Internet — including Apple, whose Apple TV set-top box isn’t flying off store shelves. Jobs:
I think the whole category is still a hobby right now. I don’t think anybody has succeeded at it and actually the experimentation has slowed down. A lot of the early companies that were trying things have faded away, so I’d have to say that given the economic conditions, given the venture capital outlooks and stuff, I continue to believe it will be a hobby in 2009.
Jobs is right — there’s probably still no pressing, mainstream demand for an Internet TV set-top box, especially if they’re going to have to cost $200-300. (Most people already get all the TV they want from their cable boxes, cable video-on-demand, and DVRs. And with a box already in millions of living rooms, the cable industry could have a better chance at connecting your TV to the Internet than any consumer electronics company — if they decide they want to.)
But that doesn’t mean there might not eventually be a market for something like the Apple TV — with a lower price tag and a few improvements.
Like what? We still think the Apple TV would benefit from a DVD drive — people still own/rent a lot of DVDs, and then the Apple TV would be able to replace something in the living room, not just add to the mess of cords. And we think opening the gadget up to video beyond Apple’s iTunes store and YouTube — sites like Hulu, MLB.TV, ABC/NBC/CBS/Fox, or any Flash/Silverlight-enabled video on the Web — would be a smart, harmless move.
The good news: Geeks are already on the case, sort of. NYC-based Boxee says its newest set-top box software can play Hulu and CBS videos on Apple TV shortly after they’re added to the site. This isn’t a perfect solution for everyone — Boxee requires some technical trickery to install on an Apple TV, and probably violates your warranty. (And it probably won’t significantly boost Apple TV sales, if at all.)
But it’s good to know that someone is actively testing the limits on Apple’s gadgets. And if Boxee catches on, maybe Apple will make streaming Web video easier themselves.
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.