Steve Jobs, the legendary Apple chief who died in 2011, is in the headlines this morning after excerpts from a new book about the company were published quoting him as telling employees that TVs were a “terrible business” — and that Apple had no plans to launch one.
But the crux of those comments by Jobs, included in the forthcoming book “Haunted Empire: Apple After Steve Jobs” by former Wall Street Journal reporter Yukari Iwatani Kane, have already been reported — by the Journal, in fact, in December 2011.
“TV is a terrible business. They don’t turn over and the margins suck,” Jobs said at Apple’s annual “Top 100” high-level employee summit, according to excerpts of Kane’s book published Sunday by Business Insider. That’s been interpreted as a refutation of Jobs’ famous statement about an Apple television to biographer Walter Isaccson, who wrote in his 2011 book on the exec that Jobs said, “I’d like to create an integrated television set that is completely easy to use.”
The exchange between Jobs and Apple’s top execs was reported by the Journal in 2011. Jobs, in response to a question about the company’s plans in this area, “responded that it would be a bad business to get into, noting that the margins on television are far lower than the margins Apple makes from its other devices and that consumers don’t buy new televisions very frequently,” according to the paper‘s account.
Apple is notoriously secretive about its strategy and product plans. Interest in the not-actually-new statements by Jobs, resurfacing like the ghost of Hamlet’s father, reflects the cult-like passion among company watchers in trying to divine the colossal company’s next big move. But Apple’s strategy has obviously evolved since Jobs’ death, and any private comments he may have made more than two years ago do not signal anything definitive one way or the other about the company’s current thinking.
For now, one of Silicon Valley’s most popular guessing games — whether Apple will launch its own TV set — will continue. Industry analysts for more than three years have routinely predicted various incarnations of what an Apple HDTV might cost, what it might look like and when it might be available.
In the meantime, the company has focused on the Apple TV set-top, a $99 device that provides access to iTunes content, as well as Netflix, YouTube, HBO Go and other video services. Last month at the company’s annual shareholders meeting, CEO Tim Cook said Apple TV pulled in more than $1 billion in revenue in 2013, including both hardware sales and content purchased through the devices.
“It’s a little more difficult to call (Apple TV) a hobby these days,” said Cook at the shareholders meeting, referring to the term Jobs had once used to describe the set-top.
Apple reportedly is prepping a refreshed version of the Apple TV set-top with a faster processor and redesigned interface that may be announced as early as April, according to a Bloomberg report. The consumer-electronics giant also is said to have been engaged in talks with Time Warner Cable and others for the launch of the updated device, which is supposed to ship in time for the 2014 holiday shopping season.