Report: Apple discusses the future of TV

December 19, 2011

Apple executives have been speaking to media companies about their vision for the future of television, The Wall Street Journal reported Monday.

Television is thought to be the next major media frontier for the company, thanks in part to remarks from its late co-founder, Steve Jobs, who told biographer Walter Isaacson that he had “finally cracked” a way to make a user-friendly integrated television.

Citing unnamed “people briefed on the project,” the report says that Apple is working on a television that uses wireless streaming technology to show television programs, movies and other content. One person told the newspaper that Apple executives had described a way to control sets using motions and voice control — probably referring at least in part to the company’s Siri technology.

Tech analysts are pointing to television as one of the next major battlegrounds for consumer tech, as set-top streaming boxes become more popular and more people view movies through services such as Netflix or Hulu Plus on their gaming consoles. The battle for the living room is one that Apple has had a hand in for years through Apple TV, but also one it has taken pains to paint as a “hobby.”

Google has had trouble getting its integrated television system to take off, thanks to bugs and problems with manufacturing partners. In November, Google TV partner Logitech announced that it would stop making its Revue box, leaving Sony as Google’s only TV partner.

Meanwhile, technology analysts have speculated that Apple will move into the market by expanding its iOS platform to work on television sets, rather than getting into the low-profit market of producing televisions itself. Apple blogger John Gruber has theorized that Jobs’s revelation is that “apps are the new channels,” which could display, for example, a sports team’s past record while watching a current game. The platform could give users easy access to apps that enrich the television experience.

All of Apple’s work on television so far appears to be in the early stages, the Journal report said, and the company has reportedly made little to no mention of how it will work with media partners to license content. Apple has been successful in the past getting some television distributors on board for its iTunes store but has reportedly only had preliminary discussions to put more content on its current batch of devices.

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Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.
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