Steve Jobs and 'one more thing': reinventing TV

By Jonny Evans

Apple [AAPL] watchers are asking just how long it will be until Apple's much-loved boss, Steve Jobs, moves aside to become special advisor to new Apple CEO, Tim Cook. Today I'm beginning to believe Steve has one more card he wants to play before he pulls back a little -- he wants to reinvent television, and I hope he gets to achieve this aim.


I realize this is a regular claim. Ever since Jobs appeared at D8 last year to tell us that any innovation in the TV market will need to alter the existing business structure we've been wondering what the company plans to bring to the table.

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Google fail

Continued sluggish evolution when it comes to Google's clearly foundering 'Google TV' plans and continued intransigence on the part of the labels when it comes to approving cloud-based music services show the implicit challenges of such reinvention.

Overnight we learned that Google may scale back its Google Music plans to act as solely a music locker service, with execs seemingly utterly frustrated at the rigmarole of doing business with music industry suits. In fact, a report claims Google is "disgusted" with the labels.

Advantage, Apple

Meanwhile negotiations for Apple's streaming services via iTunes are understood to be close to fruition, with the company's huge US data center set to go live.

Given Amazon's recent surprise appearance within the cloud-based music locker space, it seems likely Apple has a more advanced plan, potentially combining music locker services with music rental and high-res a la carte download services, though this isn't clear to me at this time.

The plans won't stop with the US. Analyst Peter Misek at Jefferies & Co believes Apple intends building new data centers in other parts of the US and Europe in order to expand the reach of its cloud-based plans.

This makes sense, as Apple is expected to introduce its new content ecosystem in the US, with a subsequent international roll-out. That is how it has succesfully bought all its previous media-related initiatives to market.

"We find it notable that the content companies, citing a lack of domain license, asked Cablevision to remove channels from its iPad app. We believe these same companies are negotiating some sort of deal with Apple. We would find it easy to believe that Steve Jobs’ final hurrah before turning the reins over would be to revolutionize video much in the same way Apple has transformed the mobile, computing, and music world. It is also notable that his authorized biography is due in 2012," said analyst Peter Misek.

What can we expect?

Well, with the iPad 2 already offering HD output to a connected TV, with the iPhone 5 likely to also offer HD output based on its use of the same A5 processor and with the Apple TV still seemingly set to be turned-on for App support, I'm anticipating an interesting summer for Apple.

  • The iTunes service seems likely to launch in the US initially.
  • You'll be able to access all your owned music from any device.
  • You'll be able to purchase and rent music and video.
  • You'll be able to store your own personal documents and data in the cloud.
  • In future, you'll use Apple's cloud to support iTunes payments using your iPhone 5.
  • In future, you'll use Apple's cloud as a pivotal access center to get to your main Mac at your home and office while you're on the road.

The key will be the reinvention of TV.

TV anywhere

For a set fee you'll be able to access the TV shows you want. It is possible there might be an iAds element here, an attempt to replicate the kind of ads revenues networks gain when offering broadcast content.

The system will be intelligent and portable -- you'll be able to begin watching a TV show on your Apple TV-connected television, then on your iPad, the Mac in the den, and catch the conclusion on your iPhone.

This will be Apple's play for a market currently dominated by cable and satellite providers. It would be nice to see some trans-territorial licensing too, but that will likely take time.

If these plans bear fruit, this will be where Apple reinvents television. And this could be Steve Jobs' "one more thing", as he turns Apple's TV 'hobby' into yet another wave of disruptive change. I can't wait to read his biography.

Are you convinced? Will Apple disrupt the TV and broadcast industry? Or does an adventure in TV land make no sense at all to America's biggest tech company?

Let us know in comments below.

I'd also be ever so pleased if you began following me on Twitter so I can let you know when new reports get published here first on Computerworld.   

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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