He once said Apple would never build a smartphone. The world’s most popular smartphone is the iPhone, introduced by Jobs in 2007. Jobs also said about television, “It will have the simplest user interface you could imagine. I finally cracked it.” Jobs lied. Apple missed the boat on television. That ship has sailed.
TV Industry vs. TV Watching
There are two basic aspects to television in the 21st century. The first is the television industry, comprised of cable TV companies, content producers, movie producers, TV networks, TV stations, and the many ways the industry uses to distribute television content.
The second is television watching. That’s what we do. Historically, TV watching was analog over-the-air broadcast TV, a few channels and a few networks in each market. Cable TV changed that by gathering many stations and networks and funneling the content down a pipe to a television set.
It’s the distribution portion of the industry which has changed and it’s not so much that Apple missed the traditional boat as the company has had a big hand in changing how and where and when we watch television. A generation ago we watch video content (in the form of TV shows, regions, news, sports, movies) on a television in the living room. Today, we can watch even more content on more devices and take them wherever we go.
Apple may have wanted to create a smart television, but no matter how much software is stuffed inside the boob tube it will always be a boob tube. TVs are inherently dumb. They’re a screen with speakers and not much else. That ship has sailed. Apple missed the boat. No Apple television will see the light of day because Apple already ships a few hundred content watching devices every year with iPad and iPhone, and to a less extent, the Mac.
So it does not matter that Apple won’t have a branded smart television. Even if the company manages to collect enough networks to launch its own streaming internet television service it’s much too little and way to late to have much of an impact, either on content viewing society, or upon Apple’s top and bottom line.
Television, as we know it and have known it, has become passé. We, the viewing public, have changed, we’re over it, we’ve moved on. Television as an industry has many players and they all want a profitable slice of a very profitable pie and there’s little that Apple can bring to the table to get a seat at the table.
In one respect, Apple is already there. Today we consume television-like entertainment on iPhone and iPad and Mac; smartphones and tablets; whenever and wherever, seldom tethered to the TV set or cable connection. We take our devices wherever we go to consume whatever we want to watch and when, and because the television industry does not give viewers what we truly, madly, deeply want– unfettered, on-demand, instant access to all video content; live, news, information, TV shows, movies– we have taken our new devices to be informed and entertained by other, more diverse, and less restrictive sources, television industry be damned.
Apple may have missed the television boat, but it doesn’t matter because the company is front and center with how we consume video in the 21st century. Of course, it would be nice if Apple would just buy the entire TV and movie industry and make everything available on demand, but that’s for next year.