The new Jobs biography drops tantalizing hints about the future of Apple TV. What would such a device look like? What would it do?
In his new biography of Steve Jobs, Walter Isaacson writes that Jobs told him, "I'd like to create an integrated television set that is completely easy to use. It would be seamlessly synced with all of your devices and with iCloud." Not the Apple TV we know today, but something that'll bring us the television future we have all imagined will come, one in which every television show or movie ever made is a click away, and we never have to think about cable boxes, DVR's, shiny disks, or online streaming services. You sit on your couch and the program you want appears with a minimum of planning.
Making this idea reality seems impossible for now, even for Apple. What could Jobs have had in mind? Well, let's look at what Apple has done with the iPhone and its other technologies, and extrapolate those improvements to the TV. But first, let's look at what are TV's problems that need solving.
Currently, the cable providers are the gatekeepers to most of the content viewers want. They've created deals with content producers that are Byzantine, high-money, and often exclusive. DVR's such as TiVo allow cable content to be time-shifted, and are a step in the right direction, but they leave much to be desired. You need to program them before your show airs, their interfaces are universally reviled, and if, say, breaking news pushes the air time of your show back, the DVR may well cut the ending off and leave you out of luck. Online streaming services such as Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Apple's own iTunes cut a clearer path to the future, but they have fragmented and disappointingly incomplete libraries, especially when it comes to new content.