Is this Steve Jobs' plan to revolutionize the television industry?

By on August 17, 2012, 8:30 AM

A few days ago the Wall Street Journal ran a story about Apple’s vision of bringing live television to customers through a set-top box. Now we are hearing even more from the publication about what a device of this nature might be able to accomplish and if Cupertino is able to make it happen, there’s little doubt that it’d change television consumption as we know it today.

According to sources that have been briefed on Apple’s plans, the company wants to create what is described as an online DVR of sorts. The device would seemingly blur the lines between on-demand content and live television as it would store entire episodes of shows in iCloud. Furthermore, viewers would be able to start watching a live broadcast from the beginning long after it had started, somewhat similar to what Time Warner offers with their Start Over feature. All of this would be available "on demand" without the user having to schedule any recordings.

The device would further differentiate itself from traditional set-top box on-demand services by offering all episodes of current seasons of television shows as well as making previous seasons available for viewing.

The WSJ also noted that the user interface would resemble the one found on the iPad, making it easier for people to navigate than existing cable set-top box menus. Apple also wants users to be able to access content from the box using other iOS devices.

If you recall, this all sounds a lot like what Steve Jobs described to Walter Isaacson in his self-titled biography shortly before he died.

"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."

Such a device would require participation from a number of big players in the television industry, a challenge that may be insurmountable even for Apple.




User Comments: 10

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Guest said:

No, this isn't Steve Jobs plan to revolutionise the television industry.

gwailo247, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

Is touching your chin and having a douchey smirk a requirement for being Apple's CEO?

And whatever pans out with Apple TV, one thing is for certain, people are going to be paying more for the same content as before, and being happy as a clam to do so.

1 person liked this | Vrmithrax Vrmithrax, TechSpot Paladin, said:

This whole situation is a bit scary to me... We've already seen what happened when Apple got into the e-book market and worked with some big publishers to price-fix at higher levels. If big TV and cable companies are going to get behind anything, it's going to be something where they can guarantee to continue squeezing maximum profits from their entire customer base. Seems like Apple has behavioral trends that match more closely with those cable magnates. And, let's face it: the big players are not going to readily jump into open or low-cost options like Google-based products, particularly if there is a premium option available that shows a track record of borderline-fanatical loyalty from customers willing to shell out large amounts of dough for exclusive hardware.

SNGX1275 SNGX1275, TS Forces Special, said:

If you are right vrmithrax, then the product will fail. Even if every half hearted apple fanboy joined on, it wouldn't be enough to make venturing into this area worth it.

Cable companies are already raping their subscribers on prices. The problem is the tons of channels nobody wants to watch, but there is some regulation, some print somewhere, that allows them to exist. I've read something on it long ago and forget all the details. But that is the reason we can't have ala carte channels, because so few would choose something like WildlifeTV to make it worth creating content for it.

How can Apple entering this market make it any worse for subscribers? So many people (me included) have dropped cable TV because you can often find what you want to watch elsewhere, whether it be something like justin.tv or those various channel surfing sites, or torrents.

For Apple to get into this market, they'll have to be able to offer something that is better than current cable+tivo, and it will have to be substantially better otherwise nobody would use it.

You cited the ebook market, but that was a market that didn't really exist before, now it does. TV is an existing thing, and any 'price-fixing' at some high level isn't going to fly. You can pirate TV now, no problem. You couldn't easily pirate ebooks at the time, mostly because so few existed.

Vrmithrax Vrmithrax, TechSpot Paladin, said:

Oh, I'm with you completely SNGX... I dropped cable long ago, just do broadcast TV with my aging BeyondTV system, and rely on Netflix, Hulu, etc. for the rest of my media consumption. Seems like more and more people are dumping cable. And I totally agree with you, it seems like Apple will have to price themselves better than current cable and DVR offerings.

But, as I pointed out with the e-book thing, Apple doesn't always go with what you might conventionally consider the "smart approach" to marketing. The e-book did, in fact, exist for quite a while prior to their price fixing stint. Amazon was bringing ebooks at better pricing to the consumers, and dominating the market doing so, but Apple and the publishers didn't feel the profit margins were high enough, so they had their little collusion to change the game. I know it's an apples to oranges comparison (pun only slightly intended), but if Apple applies the same "profit-first, maximize prices to what the market might bear" mentality towards this TV endeavor, they may not care what is smart for the consumer. They may price right up there with cable, or just a hair behind it.

My point was, if content providers and publishers are given a choice between lower margin offerings, or a premium service that increases profits, they will go with the highball option. If Apple enters at a high level, you could see a complete strangulation of content that many of us are using now, as the big players shift to Apple. It's a stretch, and just a worry at this point... But, based on past behaviors, it's not much of a stretch.

I liken it to the Hulu Plus debacle, where they suddenly decided that was was being offered free should be charged for, with only a few morsels offered free as enticement to encourage subscription. Suddenly there was more content available on the premium side, as studios saw actual money potential, and content was transitioned away from many free portals. It became subscribe or probably forget watching some of what you want, unless you plan on pirating it. Who's to say Apple's approach won't be just like this, but on a much bigger (and painful to the average consumer) scale?

ikesmasher said:

not happening samsung hardware, thats for sure.

danhodge danhodge said:

'Such a device would require participation from a number of big players in the television industry, a challenge that may be insurmountable even for Apple.'

Bullshit, if there is one thing Apple can do, it is that. Who else could have brung together the major keys to the music industry, for iTunes?

lawfer, TechSpot Paladin, said:

If it is, then I'm impressed.

Though, I highly doubt providers will give their content to Apple so freely.

Guest said:

danhodge "Bullshit, if there is one thing Apple can do, it is that. Who else could have brung together the major keys to the music industry, for iTunes?"

Anyone willing to negotiate the kinds of rates Apple does, where they can collude in ripping off the consumer because Apple has that nice fat revenue stream thanks to their mindless sheep consumers. Now ask yourself, how happy have the music retailers been with itunes? Not happy at all, they saw Apple swallow their 30% and leave them with the crumbs, and have been complaining ever since.

And that's why this time it will actually be much harder for Apple, the cable content producers aren't enthusiastic to just hand over 30% to the wannabe monopolists in Cupertino.

MilwaukeeMike said:

Is touching your chin and having a douchey smirk a requirement for being Apple's CEO?

And whatever pans out with Apple TV, one thing is for certain, people are going to be paying more for the same content as before, and being happy as a clam to do so.

Yeah, but you can tell he's not a ruthless charge-your-customers-through-the-nose while suing-everyone-in-sight CEO because he's wearing jeans. He's smiling because their stock price just hit $610 and his options are worth more than his iPhone can process.

I don't see Apple pulling this off too easily because of how harshly they negotiate. The music industry was getting bent over a barrel by the internet... Cable isn't (yet)... or at least, not as bad. We will probably need one of the big three (Apple, Google, MS) to be willing to take losses to attract customers to get a new type of TV service off the ground. And no cable service to date makes you buy a box to use it... Apple won't get far trying to sell a unit to run their service.

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