When Steve Jobs told his biographer Walter Isaacson that he had "cracked" how to build a TV with "the simplest user interface," he didn't actually mean Apple was building an HDTV. A new reports suggests that hardships in securing content from cable companies is killing any chances of an Apple HDTV (for now).
The TV business is not a particularly lucrative industry. The problem isn't innovation, it's profits. Just ask Sony. The company didn't make a single cent of profit on every TV it's sold for the last eight years. And if we know Apple, it won't enter any market where it can't make a tidy sum by launching a new product.
In a company note by Pacific Crest's Andy Hargreaves speaking with Apple CFO Peter Oppenheimer Eddy Cue, senior VP for Internet Services and Software:
Relative to the television market, Eddy Cue, Apple SVP of Internet Software and Services, reiterated the company's mantra that it will enter markets where it feels it can create great customer experiences and address key problems. The key problems in the television market are the poor quality of the user interface and the forced bundling of pay TV content, in our view. While Apple could almost certainly create a better user interface, Mr. Cue's commentary suggested that this would be an incomplete solution from Apple's perspective unless it could deliver content in a way that is different from the current multichannel pay TV model.
For Apple, having excellent hardware is not enough. If it can't control the content, it won't release any products. As Hargreaves notes, that's where the trouble lies. The cable companies have control of the content and aren't likely to cede control of it to Apple.
Hargreave's report jibes well with what Bloomberg and The Wall Street Journal reported last week; that Apple is working on a set-top box capable of streaming live TV channels and putting the "iTV" on hold.
If you look at where TV technology is headed — 4K and 8K resolution — it might be better if Apple waits, anyway. With all the "Retina" this, and Retina that, why would Apple release a TV with a picture resolution that doesn't blow away the competition? If there's one thing Apple knows, it's that the keys to success is all about timing.