Steve Jobs believed HDTVs were a 'terrible business,' saw Apple TV set as unlikely, new book reveals

Posted:
in iPod + iTunes + AppleTV edited March 2014
Before his death, Apple co-founder Steve Jobs reportedly said in a meeting with his top 100 employees that he didn't believe the company would ever release a television set, due to low margins and infrequent user upgrades.

Apple TV


Details of the alleged 2010 meeting between Jobs and staff at the company's annual "Top 100" meeting come from a a new book by former Wall Street Journal reporter Yukari Iwatani Kane entitled "Haunted Empire: Apple After Steve Jobs," set to be released this Tuesday. Excerpts from the upcoming book were published on Sunday by Business Insider.

According to Kane, Jobs was asked at the meeting whether the company was planning to release a full-fledged television set, going beyond the company's Apple TV streaming set-top box. Jobs responded flatly with "no," without hesitating, people allegedly at the meeting indicated.Late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs is alleged to have said in 2010 that the television set business is "terrible," and he didn't believe Apple should try to compete.

"TV is a terrible business," Jobs is alleged to have said. "They don't turn over and the margins suck."

The details fly in contrast to what Jobs himself told biographer Walter Isaacson, who penned the CEO's authorized biography entitled "Steve Jobs," which came out shortly after his death in 2011. In those discussions, Jobs said he envisioned an advanced connected television that would sync with all of a user's devices via iCloud while being easy to use and navigate.

The HDTV market is notoriously difficult, with major players struggling with low margins and declining sales. Just last week it was revealed that HDTV sales dropped 10 percent year over year.

After Jobs' death in late 2011, rumors began to swell that Apple was working on a connected television set for release at some point in the future. Since then, though, those expectations have largely cooled off, and recent claims have instead suggested that the company is working on a next-generation version of its existing Apple TV set-top box, which saw sales top $1 billion for the first time in 2013.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 91
    tcaseytcasey Posts: 199member
    R.I.P Steve Jobs.
  • Reply 2 of 91
    <div align="center"><a href="http://www.amazon.com/Haunted-Empire-Apple-After-Steve/dp/0062128256/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=reality&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=1616084731"><img src="http://photos.appleinsidercdn.com/13.01.23-Apple_TV_Interface.jpg" alt="Apple TV" width="660" height="407" border="0"></a></div>
    The details fly in contrast to what Jobs himself told biographer Walter Isaacson, who penned the CEO's authorized biography entitled "Steve Jobs," which came out shortly after his death in 2011. In those discussions, Jobs said he envisioned an advanced <a href="http://appleinsider.com/articles/11/10/21/steve_jobs_told_biographer_he_cracked_the_secret_to_a_simple_hdtv.html">connected television</a> that would sync with all of a user's devices via iCloud while being easy to use and navigate.

    No, they don't contradict anything. Jobs told Issacson that he "cracked" it or what have you. The world interpreted that as a physical set. Truth is we don't know. A physicL set is a suckers game.
  • Reply 3 of 91
    jungmarkjungmark Posts: 6,715member
    Yup. If true, that's exactly why Apple should stay away from making TV sets.
  • Reply 4 of 91
    Was that the illusion before the reveal by the magician?

    He envisioned TV in Isaacson's book and said it would be a TV set. So was this 2010 meeting before or after his discussion of TV with Walter?

    From the book:
    [quote]"I'd like to create an integrated television set that is completely easy to use."[/quote]
  • Reply 5 of 91
    tallest skiltallest skil Posts: 43,399member

    DUH.

  • Reply 6 of 91
    solipsismxsolipsismx Posts: 19,566member
    starbird73 wrote: »
    No, they don't contradict anything. Jobs told Issacson that he "cracked" it or what have you. The world interpreted that as a physical set. Truth is we don't know. A physicL set is a suckers game.

    To me, cracking it, always meant a way to get a great UI that is easy to control, which I interpret to mean the "TV" simply becomes a dumb monitor, which is how most of us have used it for years, completely bypassing the built-in tuner, but unfortunately still needing to use their clunky and slow input controls to change between cable/sat box, AppleTV/Roku/Chromecast media extender, and/or Blu-ray/DVD player.
  • Reply 7 of 91
    inklinginkling Posts: 731member
    Jobs was smart. HDTV's are not only commodities, there's nothing about them needs the Apple touch. Where Apple might shine is in a box that connects to them and provides the content. There, Apple can shine and leverage its other investments.

    Notice too that Apple hasn't payed much interest in computer displays in years. Nothing there either. Do what you do well. Leave the rest too others.
  • Reply 8 of 91
    rob53rob53 Posts: 2,084member
    Here we go again, stupid information from Kane. Was she there? Who gave her this information? How many times do we have to say alleged or rumored or something like this before we quit listening to supposed journalists trying to make money on stuff they said, someone said, while someone else was supposedly attending a supposed meeting.
  • Reply 9 of 91
    Jobs did crack it. It was a no-go for an HDTV.
  • Reply 10 of 91
    rogifanrogifan Posts: 10,669member
    inkling wrote: »
    Jobs was smart. HDTV's are not only commodities, there's nothing about them needs the Apple touch. Where Apple might shine is in a box that connects to them and provides the content. There, Apple can shine and leverage its other investments.

    Notice too that Apple hasn't payed much interest in computer displays in years. Nothing there either. Do what you do well. Leave the rest too others.
    One could say the same about pretty much anything Apple is in. A $99 box doesn't move the needle on $170 billion revenue base unless you can get a lot more people buying the $99 box and a reason for them to upgrade it ever 2-3 years.
  • Reply 11 of 91
    saareksaarek Posts: 1,141member
    Why would Apple enter the TV business when the ATV can connect to every HD TV ever made. I know which category I'd prefer to be in.
  • Reply 12 of 91
    rogifanrogifan Posts: 10,669member
    saarek wrote: »
    Why would Apple enter the TV business when the ATV can connect to every HD TV ever made. I know which category I'd prefer to be in.
    Because TVs bring in more revenue than $99 boxes do. Unless Apple has a bunch of other stuff in the pipeline to drive revenue growth.
  • Reply 13 of 91
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Rogifan View Post





    One could say the same about pretty much anything Apple is in. A $99 box doesn't move the needle on $170 billion revenue base unless you can get a lot more people buying the $99 box and a reason for them to upgrade it ever 2-3 years.

    It does move the needle. That $99 box brought in more than half a percent of Apple's cash last year ($1bn revenue)

     

     

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Rogifan View Post





    Because TVs bring in more revenue than $99 boxes do. Unless Apple has a bunch of other stuff in the pipeline to drive revenue growth.

    Revenue means nothing. Profitability is Apple's concern, and profit of a $99 APT won't be far off profit for a standard TV. Most of the big name TV manufactures nowadays make almost nothing on TV's.

  • Reply 14 of 91
    froodfrood Posts: 771member

    The physical TV business does have terrible margins and low turnover.  So scrap that, and on to Apple TV, being a content distributor.   It is tough to distinguish yourself without being a content creator, and there are a ton of players.  At the time, it would make sense that Steve might have thought he "cracked it" in how you get into the content delivery business *and* make good margins doing it.  That was about the time he was formulating the iBooks deals.  Given he anticipated that scheme working (and it did, Apple would be making the lions share in profits in books had it stood), if he applied the same method to content providers, Apple would be making a killing in TV too.

     

    As it is I don't really see it being a 'breakout' product for Apple.  Yes, they have a ton of users and the platform advantage- so it makes sense for them to pursue it because they will make easy money, but it is never going to be more than a blip relative to iPhone income.

  • Reply 15 of 91
    tallest skiltallest skil Posts: 43,399member
    Originally Posted by Rogifan View Post

    Because TVs bring in more revenue than $99 boxes do.

     

    But nowhere near the profit.

  • Reply 16 of 91
    bobschlobbobschlob Posts: 1,074member

    delete

  • Reply 17 of 91
    bobschlobbobschlob Posts: 1,074member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Rogifan View Post

     
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by saarek View Post



    Why would Apple enter the TV business when the ATV can connect to every HD TV ever made. I know which category I'd prefer to be in.


    Because TVs bring in more revenue than $99 boxes do. Unless Apple has a bunch of other stuff in the pipeline to drive revenue growth.

    No they really don't. Apple has to buy (and then ship to customers) those 42" 55" 60" displays from Samsung.

    It's a no win no matter how you figure it.

  • Reply 18 of 91
    dubstondubston Posts: 24member
    At present, TVs are low margin products which last consumers around 8 years or so. If Apple does make a TV set, I don't see them making huge changes with each new model. They would likely make design refinements, display quality upgrades etc. Enough to make them get decent market share in the crowded TV market. Apple will succeed, as usual with the harmonious integration of great software and beautiful hardware design.
    If someone buys a $99 Apple TV and connects it to a Smart TV, the TV will likely have Netflix and similar apps, like the Apple TV. Then the Apple TV becomes another device fighting for space with all the other content delivery possibilities.
    If Apple made a television set, it would heavily focus on the iTunes store as a first point of purchase for content. In other words, Apple would have control of the user experience with their own TV set. I do believe that Apple would make good margins on their own TV set, but the real profit would be in the content. I have to believe that Apple are building all those data centres with something big in mind. i am sure we will found out soon enough. Remember, Steve was known for spreading FUD to throw off the competition.
  • Reply 19 of 91
    MacProMacPro Posts: 18,367member
    Jobs did crack it. It was a no-go for an HDTV.

    Exactly. As many have said on this blog before.
  • Reply 20 of 91
    irelandireland Posts: 17,669member
    That doesn't sound like Jobs to me. Someone is desperate to sell a book. Steve said himself, it's on video, that they talked about doing a TV at Apple but couldn't because there's no go-to-market strategy. I don't believe Jobs said this.
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