Apple founder Steve Jobs always wanted to crack the television market. Picture: Justin Sullivan/Getty
Apple founder Steve Jobs always wanted to crack the television market. Picture: Justin Sullivan/Getty

‘I cracked it’: Steve Jobs’ TV dream

ANALYSIS

Apple's streaming service and revamped TV app due to be rolled out later this year has been a long time coming - in more ways than one.

The iPhone maker has been working on content deals and putting money into commissioning original content in the past couple of years with an eye towards this week's announcement.

Its original content will be housed in a new Apple TV app the company has been tinkering with and which will now expand to non-Apple devices.

The tech giant has had a long and fraught history of trying to work its magic on the TV experience but has never managed to reach the lofty heights once envisioned by Steve Jobs.

In a rare and revealing interview close to a decade ago, the famous Apple co-founder told his biographer Walter Isaacson he had "cracked" the TV.

"He very much wanted to do for television sets what he had done for computers, music players, and phones: make them simple and elegant," Isaacson wrote in Jobs's 2011 biography.

"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," Jobs told him.

"It will have the simplest user interface you could imagine. I finally cracked it," he said many years ago.

At the time there was speculation that Apple would bring out a physical TV set - something Jobs was reportedly interested in before his health took a serious turn for the worse.

Apple completely disrupted the music industry with the iPod and iTunes but has never really been able to replicate that kind of impact in the home entertainment category.

 

Steve Carell, Reese Witherspoon and Jennifer Aniston at Apple’s TV announcement. Picture: Tony Avelar/AP
Steve Carell, Reese Witherspoon and Jennifer Aniston at Apple’s TV announcement. Picture: Tony Avelar/AP

 

I don't think what Apple announced this week is exactly what Jobs had in mind when he made those comments to Isaacson, but after years of stumbling in this area the slight changes to its TV portal would surely make him smile.

Not many years ago, Apple quietly released its TV app, previously called Videos, but many users weren't convinced by it.

It was designed to hijack the user interfaces and libraries of other content providers and deliver a central location for all your TV browsing. It's automatically downloaded on iPhones and iPads and is also on the company's Apple TV box.

But other smart TV accessories can provide a similar function, often at a cheaper price point than the Apple TV box. And Apple has been unable to get major content providers like Netflix to play ball, limiting its ability to become a one-stop-shop for online streaming.

It is handy having lots of different content in one place, but Apple still kicked you out to the third party app to handle the stream. So it really only served as a universal search function for content from separate streaming apps and libraries, as well allowing different shows to be watched via iTunes downloads.

But new changes coming to the app will fix this with Apple now hosting all streams, making it more convenient and attractive to use. You will also be able to download the content for offline use.

Customers can subscribe to Apple TV channels a la carte (in the US, this includes HBO and Showtime) and watch them in the TV app, with no additional apps, accounts or passwords required. No more knocking about between different apps.

Essentially, Apple wants to be similar to a pay TV provider where you can sign up to certain channels and different streaming services and have them delivered in the same place, and presumably take a small cut for facilitating the sign up for a new service or "channel".

Much like the Apple News+ service it announced on Tuesday, the company is keen to insert itself as the middle man under the veil of consumer convenience and by harnessing the leverage it has from its massive pool of active device users.

"We designed a new TV experience where you can pay for only the channels you want, all in one app," said Apple's vice president of services, Peter Stern.

"Watch everything on demand and ad free. Download your shows and take them on the go.

"This is how TV should work."

The increased simplicity and overall functionality of the user interface will no doubt improve the experience of the app, and will help draw people to Apple's own original content library.

 

Apple’s event was big on star power with celebs like Oprah spruiking the new service. Picture: Michael Short/Getty Images)
Apple’s event was big on star power with celebs like Oprah spruiking the new service. Picture: Michael Short/Getty Images)

However the company was heavy on the star power and light on the details today, so we will wait and see how many local partners it has managed to convince to come on board and how well it all works.

"Network and streaming app availability will vary by country," an Apple spokesperson told news.com.au.

It's clear we won't get the best of this due to regional restrictions and local rights deals - for example, HBO content is locked up with Foxtel. Apple says it will reveal more details about local partners later this year.

The company is also bringing the Apple TV app to Mac and a range of smart TVs to reach a larger audience. It's already available on Samsung TVs and it will soon roll out on LG, Sony, VIZIO and other smart TVs, as well as Amazon Fire and Roku devices which builds Telstra TV.

The author travelled to San Francisco as a guest of Apple.


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