What is Apple’s secret TV project?


Apple TV

Here’s why we think Apple has a secret TV project:

It began in October of 2011 when Walter Isaacson’s official biography quoted the late Steve Jobs:

“‘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.’”

Part two came in December of 2012 when Jobs’ successor Tim Cook showed that he was comfortable with an Apple CEO’s duty to tease and hedge:

“BRIAN WILLIAMS: What can Apple do for television watching? What do you know that is gonna change the game, that we don’t know yet?

Apple CEO Tim Cook

Apple CEO Tim Cook

TIM COOK: It’s a market that we see, that has been left behind. … It’s an area of intense interest. I can’t say more than that.”

So we sighed and went back to buying iPhones and iPads, trying not to pay attention when in May of 2013 Cook tossed a stone into the pool of our TV contentment:

“When you look at the TV experience, it’s not an experience that I think very many people love,” Cook said. “It’s not one that has been brought up to date for this decade. It’s still an experience much like 10 years ago or 20 years ago. …  [I]t continues to be an area of great interest to us.”

What a flirt! Seriously, my hat is off to whoever handles Cook’s media training.

The tempo of news stories, however, has been increasing lately.

In July, Apple hired a senior marketing executive from Hulu, a streaming Internet video service.


Marketing exec from Hulu

On October 2, however, Apple hired an engineering director from CableLabs with specialties in, “Internet data, IP voice & video, HD Voice, TV Apps, and Wi-Fi.” CableLabs is a research and development non-profit that makes cool things for the cable TV companies. The interesting thing about this director is his experience in streaming high-quality content over WiFi, since cable television is a landline technology. In other words, Apple hired someone who was experimenting with making TV more Internet friendly, possibly more mobile friendly.

So now Apple has someone who’s good at marketing what Hulu does, and someone else who’s good at making what Hulu does. These hires indicate that Apple is developing its own internet streaming service.


WiFi engineer from CableLabs

This would be an inversion of Jobs’ favored dictum, which came from programmer Alan Kay, that, “People who are really serious about software should make their own hardware.”

Because of Jobs, the hardware (Apple TV) already exists. It’s up to Cook to make the software, which appears to be exactly what he’s doing. No longer would Apple TV merely be a portal for Netflix, Hulu, etc. Apple would make its own service to compete with these companies directly.

If true, then Apple is betting on WiFi to handle America’s hunger for television, which would put Internet providers in a very lucrative position.

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