Whatever happened to the Apple HDTV?

“In late 2006, the crescendo of rumors about Apple building a smartphone became deafening–and sure enough, in January 2007, the company announced the iPhone. Three years later, the blogosphere was afire with scuttlebutt about an Apple tablet–right before Apple unveiled the iPad,” Harry McCracken reports for TIME Magazine. “Then there are the rumors about Apple making an HDTV. One with streaming video from the iTunes store, a predictably polished interface and industrial design, and–as long as we’re rumormongering–maybe a breakthrough or two that will change TV forever.”

“Analysts, pundits and other assorted Apple watchers have been talking about such a TV for years. Sometimes, they’ve even said that factories were in the process of cranking up production so that TVs could reach Apple Stores in the immediate future, or issued forecasts of how many units the company would sell,” McCracken reports. “And yet, the Apple HDTV not only isn’t here yet, but feels like it’s slipping away. When people bring it up now, they assume it will debut in 2015, if they specify a date at all.”

McCracken reports, “To understand what happened, it’s worth recapping how we got here.”

Much Munster in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: What happened is that the contracts for content lack ink. Regardless of whether the final form is an HDTV or a set-top box, a little birdy tells us that everything else – the important part, the software – is pretty much done, but without content, it’s a nonstarter.

As we just wrote on Tuesday:

If only Apple had someone like Steve Jobs who could get the ink on the contracts. Force of will. Charisma. An unmatched track record. You know, the good stuff!

Unfortunately, we’re just not seeing much out of Eddy Cue beyond a mediocre iTunes Radio, some nascent CarPlay rumblings, slowly improving Maps and Siri, and some time spent at Ferrari board meetings. We really can’t blame Eddy; without a giant like Steve Jobs by your side it must be tough to get the ink. Ah, the post-Steve Apple.

Perhaps Cook should consider bidding for and winning NFL Sunday Ticket away from Direct TV, buying rights to Premiere League and La Liga games, etc. and making them Apple TV exclusives. Go directly to the sports leagues with boatlods of cash. Maybe that’ll grease the wheels. It’ll certainly move a bunch of Apple TV boxes around the world in short order.

Of course, if pure à la carte existed, we’d end up with 17 channels, which is a whopping five (5) channels more than we had before cable television (2-13), so some sort of bundling probably has to exist for the foreseeable future regardless of what Apple manages to do.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “Dan K.” for the heads up.]

Related article:
Americans only watch 17 of the hundreds of channels available on cable – May 6, 2014

40 Comments

  1. How about the fact that it never existed? That would be a pretty good reason it’s not here. And MDNs take is nonsense. Apple didn’t make a TV because Apple has no need whatsoever to make a TV. Apple’s influence will be thru the set top box it already makes and whatever content deals it manages to hammer out will use AppleTV as a portal. The Apple HDTV was and is a bullshit fantasy.

      1. Actually, I do know Jack. He lives two doors down from me and is burdened with multiple Samsung knockoff products about which he constantly, but ineffectively complains.

    1. I would disagree. I would say based on a lot of independent fom ours that Apple did have produced for them prototype TVs . I suspect that these were for a range of testing that was to flesh out the whole concept and determine the best way forward, be it TVs at one end and pure software solutions at the other. One would presume to make an infrastructure that was superior to anything else around they would want an idealised TV set up not that would mean that they would produce one themselves of course but would determine how they would interact with potential collaborators be it tv makers, set top box makers, software facilitators or content/cable/ satellite operators. That would also determine what they themselves would need to produce to make it happen up to the option of a TV if that were a feasible option though I very much doubt this was a major option. However it could be used to put pressure on others or as a solution they could take advantage of themselves not unlike the car play solution.

    2. My apologies to all for reposting this in the same thread, but I didn’t see this totally mistaken post the first time around, and it needed to be addressed. So here it comes again 🙂 …

      AppleTV-HD or iTV or whatever you want to call it, was and is real. It was kept out of production for the following reasons:

      Cook has indeed been trying to get deals for content from ‘suppliers’, while they in turn have never had any intention in actually making such deals. The movie & TV studios, as well as the cable companies ALL saw what happened to the record companies when Jobs got commonsense deals from them for distributing music – they lost power. Yes, they saved their industry from extinction, but the real power passed to the tech company gatekeeper; Apple.

      Cook thought the key to success in making a revolutionary video watching device was super content deals, as Jobs got for music. What escaped him was that part of the reason Jobs got those music deals was that the technology Apple was about to unleash made those deals mere dressing. The goose was the technology fully unfettered. Portable high quality player – check. Advanced software to organize & collect your songs – check. New way of getting the music over the internet legally – check. Easy transition of old collection to new paradigm (CDs ripped to iTunes) – SUPERCHECK.

      As I understand it, Jobs ‘cracked it’ by making a TV that did all of the above (more or less) for video. The hardware was somewhat expensive, but it was ready to go. Then Jobs died & Cook got cold feet when the content providers threatened holy legal hell on Apple if they built something like that without their being involved. Content deals then became the main focus of Cooks efforts, and the tech went into the closet until those deals were done.

      Of course, as I said, the studios never intended on doing those deals, at least in a way that would make it rational for a normal consumer to actually buy an iTV & it’s supporting content from the iTS. They were sure that if they kept Apple sidelined with pointless negotiations for a couple years A] they’d figure a way to dodge the bullet & possibly B] other competitors would steal Apple’s thunder, thereby blunting their efforts. The latter has happened, totally, if you’re at all paying attention to Roku & TiVo & Amazon’s offerings on the hardware side. Meanwhile, on the software side Netflix & Hulu are really stealing Apple’s online distribution thunder. As for the former, Comcast owns a TV & movie studio now, and probably will further deepen their monopoly position with the TimeWarner deal in cable/internet provision. They are effectively & steadily protecting – indeed enhancing – their power position, making it even harder for Apple to play by their rules. If Comcast+TW was the only company left in the content world, they’d already be at Microsoftian proportions, and doing to Apple what M$ did all those years ago, just in another arena – content.

      Meanwhile, the secret to cracking all this, the true Silver Bullet, is sitting on a table in a lab, gathering dust. It’s potential being steadily wasted as each delay becomes another day gone by.

      Just as he does with Apple’s money, Cook is frittering away Apple’s technological & mindshare capital, all for the purpose of making himself feel as if he’s playing competitively with the Big Boys in the various relevant boardrooms. They’re laughing, of course. They know they’ve snookered him good. But he doesn’t see it.

      Get ready for more flat icons though. Cook & Ive really have that stuff nailed.

      Again, my apologies for the repeat. I felt it was important to make sure people saw it.

  2. I’d rather pay less for the 17 channels I actually watch, rather than 500 I don’t watch.

    Even the 13 channels I had before cable weren’t all watched… It was more like five back then.

    1. That’s not how it works. What happens to all of those other channels? What happens to everyone who works at each? People only watch 17 on average, but not the same 17 channels. Bundling allows for far greater choice, so everyone can choose the 17 channels they want to watch. Pure a la carte would likely kill many of your personal favs. Not enough subscribers to support them. ESPN and FOX News would be just fine, though!

        1. Yeah, but I don’t think people should be forced to subsidize the unhealthy smokers and McDonald’s eaters. Having millions lose access to their doctors, causing premiums to shoot sky high, and harming medical quality across the board just to subsidize approx. 6 million (millions of whom used to have other coverage but lost it due to a partisan law and were forced to sign up for socialized medicine) seems more than a little ridiculous.

          1. You keep using that term “socialized medicine,” but I don’t think it means what you think it means …

            Damn, I wish the Republicans could have just passed this crap back in the ’90s when they proposed what eventually became the ACA as an alternative to Hilarycare. Maybe it would have turned out better.

            Now take your stupid off-topic political shit, lube it up real nice, turn that sumbitch sideways, and stick it straight up your candy ass. We don’t need it here.

            1. YOU do not know the definition, jackass:

              socialized medicine |ˈsoʊʃəˌlaɪzd ˈmɛdəsən|
              noun
              the provision of medical and hospital care for all by means of public funds.

            2. Well, when the government is covering my doctor’s bills for me, along with everyone else’s, I’ll come back and let you know.

              But until then, I’m going to keep on paying a damn insurance company (you know, a PRIVATE COMPANY) to help me with the outrageous costs of medical care. Or move to Canada, which actually DOES have socialized medicine.

              Dipshit. You have no idea what actual socialized medicine looks like. Keep on believing whatever half-baked lies the Friendly Friends at Fox and Friends feed you.

            3. You think that a health care system that has people buying from private companies is “socialized medicine,” and I’m somehow, in your tiny, pathetic mind, the idiot. Hah.

            4. It’s okay to admit that you don’t know what you’re talking about. Which you clearly don’t, since you don’t understand that “socialized medicine” (for which you yourself posted the dictionary definition) is not the system we have in America. Now, that is not to say that the system we have (before the ACA or after it) is good. It isn’t. It flat-out sucks. But a system of medical care that is supported almost entirely by private corporations is not in any way, shape, or form socialism.

              How you could post the actual definition and NOT get that very simple concept baffles me.

            5. I’m sorry, I’m not like you and your empty-headed sheep cohorts. I don’t blindly follow what “The Man” tells me to do. Whether he’s red or blue.

              It’s rather sad that you’d insist on dragging this out instead of just bowing out–and telling me I’m too stupid to live when you don’t understand the difference between publicly funded systems and privately funded ones. Even when you’re pulling it straight out of the dictionary.

  3. This story has missing pieces. The Steve Jobs biography quoted Steve as saying he’d finally cracked the code on making TV user friendly in an Apple way … we don’t know what that meant. Apple can play greatly in time-shifted content, geo-shifted local content and cloud-based DVR, which may be where it was headed. FCC-restricted holy grail is for me to be in Timbuktu and watch live local content of a tornado chase in Oklahoma … geographical boundaries on local content need to fall. DVRs do not have to be in homes.

    1. You’re the winner. It was Cook, trying to get deals for content from ‘suppliers’ who any fool knew would never make such deals. The movie & TV studios, as well as the cable companies ALL saw what happened to the record companies when Jobs got commonsense deals from them for distributing music – they lost power. Yes, they saved their industry from extinction, but the real power passed to the tech company gatekeeper; Apple.

      Cook thought the key to success in making a revolutionary video watching device was super content deals, as Jobs got for music. What escaped him was that part of the reason Jobs got those music deals was that the technology Apple was about to unleash made those deals mere dressing. The goose was the technology fully unfettered. Portable high quality player – check. Advanced software to organize & collect your songs – check. New way of getting the music over the internet legally – check. Easy transition of old collection to new paradigm (CDs ripped to iTunes) – SUPERCHECK.

      As I understand it, Jobs ‘cracked it’ by making a TV that did all of the above (more or less) for video. But Cook got cold feet when the content providers threatened holy legal hell on Apple if they built something like that without their being involved. Content deals then became the main focus of Cooks efforts, and the tech went into the closet until those deals were done.

      Of course, the studios never intended on doing those deals in a way that would make it rational for a person to actually buy an iTV & the supporting content from the iTS. They were sure that if they kept Apple sidelined with pointless negotiations for a couple years A] they’d figure a way to dodge the bullet & possibly B] other competitors would steal Apple’s thunder, thereby blunting their efforts. The latter has happened, totally, if you’re at all paying attention to Roku & TiVo & Amazon’s offerings on the hardware side. Meanwhile, on the software side Netflix & Hulu are really stealing Apple’s online distribution thunder. As for the former, Comcast owns a TV & movie studio now, and probably will further deepen their monopoly position with the TimeWarner deal in cable/internet provision. They are effectively & steadily protecting – indeed enhancing – their power position, making it even harder for Apple to play by their rules. If Comcast+TW was the only company left in the content world, they’d already be at Microsoftian proportions, and doing to Apple what M$ did all those years ago, just in another arena – content.

      Meanwhile, the secret to cracking all this, the true Silver Bullet, is sitting on a table in a lab, gathering dust. It’s potential being steadily wasted as each delay becomes another day gone by.

      Just as he does with Apple’s money, Cook is frittering away Apple’s technological & mindshare capital, all for the purpose of making himself feel as if he’s playing competitively with the Big Boys in the various relevant boardrooms. They’re laughing, of course. They know they’ve snookered him good. But he doesn’t see it.

      Get ready for more flat icons though. Cook & Ive really have that stuff nailed.

  4. Content is king. HDTVs in general are commodities. The most revolutionary UI design won’t matter one bit if it does not connect viewers to the content they want to see.

    There’s a reason why ~90% of US TV owners subscribe to pay TV, and put up with the set top boxes that the carriers provide — because those boxes connect viewers to the content they actually watch. Fact of the matter is that over 70% of TV viewing time is spent watching live TV broadcasts. That is the nut that Apple needs to crack, and unfortunately, the content providers and carriers have actually reinforced their relationship in recent years with contracts now running in the billions of dollars and upwards of a decade or more in length.

    Apple or anybody else will not revolutionize the living room without having access to real time broadcast content, and with the contractual relationships as they currently stand, Apple can only make a move if they play ball with the carriers and content providers (which in the case of Comcast/NBC/Universal are one in the same).

  5. MDN take (above their Tuesday’s statement is half right and half wrong. The right part is that it is already made. Not a TV they will loose money big time, but, a set top box or dongle that is where the market is going. If Apple plays their cards right they can make a lot of money since the like of the iPome and iPad. The thing I disagree is that it needs content. Take a look at the xBox and Playstation. Did they had content? No they had games! Content did not come until later. Why waste time while letting Roku make a jump over you and now they are in the lead. Even Roku had no content when they started. Apple is in a better position than the others. They need is just release the new ATV. As long as it has the A7, dual band 802.11ac Wifi, Siri and maybe 16GB of flash. They will be in great shape. All they need is a SDK to make and/or port games. Let it grow a little to show it is a viable platform and in the mean time then talk to content providers give them the SDK to make an app like CBS, TBS and the like to make their own app to subscribe to the one of the 17 channels. You can pay on the app to subscribe and pay a monthly fee to continue the watching. Apple can take a cut like the do now on Apps and the rest can go to the content providers.

  6. It will never happen….CBS, Comcast and others have a lock on the market and make millions if not billions and they know how Apple transformed the Music industry to the advantage of the consumer. They aren’t about to let that happen to the cable business and will never sign with Apple. They have a monopoly and won’t let it slip! Only way is if they need a rescue and people start leaving these companies in droves and need rescued like the Music industry did.

    1. You are absolutely correct.

      The content holders and providers are simply unwilling to give up their choiceless, you-take-all-500-channels-at our-price-or-none model and turn it over to Apple — who has a reputation for providing what customers actually want.

    2. You seem to forget that, if they really wanted to make a point, Apple could buy the likes of CBS Corp (market value: $33.26 billion) with petty cash. Never say never.

    3. Analogies between the music and television/movie industries are flawed at best.

      The difference between the music industry, and television and movies is the time value. Even with over three decades of time-shifting devices, PPV, home video, and now streaming options, the vast majority of TV viewing still occurs with live TV. People do not set their schedules to hear music.

      There’s tremendous value in the first broadcast run (also with the premiere weekend for a movie release) for TV programs, and even more with live events (this is why sports programming commands a disproportionately large chunk of carriage fees). This value is what sustains the cable/satellite and broadcast chokehold on TV viewing.

      If Apple is going to break into TV in a disruptive way, they will need to provide a new revenue model that’s more lucrative than what the industry has right now. Unlike with the music industry, TV broadcasts have their highest value during the initial broadcast, which is when 70-80% of the audience watches, even after accounting for repeat broadcasts, DVRs, and online viewing.

      The content on Netflix, Amazon, and other sources, primarily consist of second run shows and library movies — content that has already been devalued because of prior broadcasts and releases through other distribution channels. If Apple wants to really make an impact, they will need to secure first run and new release content. They can break in, but any new TV platform from Apple will need to include the broadcasters and carriers.

  7. There’s as much chance as Apple releasing a TV as there is in releasing their own search engine.

    Personally, I think both will eventually happen. I think Apple will become more ruthless when entering new markets to directly attack competitor’s bottom lines: Google’s search/ad and Samsung’s consumer electronics and component manufacturing.

    We already see two of these happening with iAd and moving component manufacturing and fabrication away from Samsung. Neither are very significant at the moment, but eventually they could have an adverse affect on both companies.

    Building a search platform that supports iAd-based advertising moves advertising dollars away from Google and more importably, eyeballs which is the source of Google’s ability to sell ad space.

    Moving to different component suppliers has two affects: (1.) It directly hurts Samsung’s bottom line, and (2.) it pours money into Samsung’s competitor’s R&D divisions. We saw the beginnings of this earlier this year when Samsung reported that their SoC fabrication business dropped off a cliff.

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