updated 05:50 pm EDT, Fri October 21, 2011
Steve Jobs bio reveals he had hopes for full TV
A further excerpt from the imminent Walter Isaacson biography of Steve Jobs has revealed that the late CEO did have hopes for a full TV set. The design would be "completely easy to use" and sync with iCloud to eliminate the trouble of moving content to the TV, the Apple co-founder said in the Washington Post passage. Similar to what he had done with the Mac, iPod, iPhone, and iPad, Jobs said he had found a solution to the interface problem that would scrap the traditional remote but, by implication, wouldn't use something Apple had done before.
"It will have the simplest user interface you could imagine," Jobs said. "I finally cracked it."
Apple has so far used a relatively conventional interface on its initial project, the Apple TV, in a four-way remote. The Remote app for iOS and AirPlay support have improved its control but are widely regarded as stopgaps to fix a relatively conventional design.
Some have called for Apple to use a body recognition system like Microsoft's Kinect for the Xbox 360. Apart from possible patent issues, its interface is considered relatively slow as users have to make slow pointing gestures or else use their voice. Speech recognition might be a possibility and would be supported by the presence of Siri's natural language in the iPhone 4S, although overcoming TV noise might be its own challenge.
Whether or not it's a practical plan is still a mystery. The volume of rumors has picked up recently and mentioned 2012 as the target. However, most of the rumors in the past have come from analysts like Piper Jaffray's Gene Munster, who has insisted for years that Apple was working on a TV in what has mostly been seen as wish-making rather than clues to real plans.
Jobs during his appearance at the D8 conference last year hinted that he might want to skip set-top boxes entirely. He warned that the cable and satellite industry model gave a subsidized device that made it difficult for anyone to offer a separate media hub that would be worth buying separately. While he ultimately followed up with the second-generation Apple TV box, even it has sold comparatively slowly. Apple executives during results calls still refer to it as a "hobby" but often add that "there's something there."