Earlier this fall, Walter Isaacson published a biography of former Apple CEO Steve Jobs. Among the most interesting tidbits in the book, from a tech perspective, was the revelation that Jobs, immediately prior to his death, was working on an Apple television, now colloquially called the iTV.
"I’d like to create an integrated television set that is completely easy to use," Jobs told Isaacson. "It would be seamlessly synced with all of your devices and with iCloud. It will have the simplest user interface you could imagine. I finally cracked it." At the time, Bloomberg reported that the iTV launch was being overseen by Jeff Robbin, the same guy who helped build both the iPod and the iTunes store.
Unsurprisingly, Apple issued no formal comment on the iTV. But according to the Guardian, the Apple iTV is very real, and possibly nearing production. In an article filed on Saturday, Julliete Garside writes that Sharp, the Japanese technology giant, will handle the displays on the new iTVs – caveat: iTV is a nickname coined in the blogosphere, and by no means a working title – and estimates that the device will hit in the "second half of 2012."
Garside's chief source is Peter Misek, an analyst at Jefferies, a US investment bank. Not only does Misek believe the iTV is imminent, he also indicates that the rest of the market has begun to adjust accordingly. "Other TV manufacturers have begun a scrambling search to identify what iTV will be and do," Misek says. "They hope to avoid the fate of other industries and manufacturers who were caught flat-footed by Apple."
So is this the real deal? Well, possibly, although as plenty of tech pundits have scrambled to point out, an Apple iTV is far from a guaranteed success. Consider, for instance, the sheer amount of cheap, powerful television sets being produced today. Whereas Apple created its own product categories with the iPod and iPad, with the iTV, they would be vying against a cadre of established, well-entrenched players.
"I’m not saying that Apple should give up on a television product," Scott Raymond of ZDNet wrote recently. "I simply think that they should focus on an expanded product built on the existing Apple TV platform. Make it bigger. Add [recording] capabilities. Put Siri in it. Then allow it to be plugged into a TV of our own choosing. The market for televisions is huge because there are so many different categories that consumers want, based on size, location, affordability, and so forth."
In an interesting wrinkle, if an iTV does arrive next year, it might vie against a similar product from Microsoft. Last week, Matt Hickey of the Daily reported that Microsoft was actively seeking to incorporate its Kinect motion-sensing technology into a new television set, possibly with the help of Vizio and Sony.
"A Kinect-enabled TV would most likely network with local PCs running the next version of Windows and also allow for gesture-based TV control (think: waving your arm to turn the set off)," Hickey wrote. So Microsoft ropes in Vizio and Sony, and Apple ropes in Sharp, and Microsoft and Apple go head to head in a next-generation-TV-set-Battle-Royale. Sounds like fun.