Apple's Steve Jobs: 'TV Is A Terrible Business'

Reading the tea leaves through Steve Jobs in regards to an Apple-manufactured television set can be disheartening -- and enlightening.

According to a new book, Jobs said in 2010  that  "TV is a terrible business. They [television sets] don't turn over, and the margins suck.” Of course, unlike television sets, people will tend to buy iPhones every two years -- making those products wildly profitable. But he changed his mind. And Jobs wanted to "create an integrated television set that is completely easy to use." Who doesn’t?

For all this we are reminded about the second part of the equation -- the content. The iTunes Music Store was built around the disarray of the revenue-challenged music industry business -- somewhat like what Amazon went through when it came to the book/publishing business.

The television industry is nowhere near those business issues -- even when it comes to fractionalization of viewers on different screens. Maybe we can start calling it a democratization of the TV content. Seems TV content owners everywhere are making money through a diverse array of distribution methods.  But they are careful not to go too crazy -- leaving the door open to other possible distribution models that come down the line.



That said, for whatever criticism there is over Apple TV’s set-top-box issues, it still delivers  $1 billion a year in revenue. Apple TV continues to grow slowly, now with the expectation to add game controllers and a refresh of its function around pay-TV content.

We have seen the likes of Intel Media try to offer up a broadband cable-TV like service -- only to realize how difficult things were in getting a significant number of TV content owners signed on, to get enough scale to go out and sell it to consumers. But it didn’t have any staying power, and sold out its budding infrastructure to Verizon.

In another interview with Jobs, now surfaced, we get some deeper insight about what he thought about consumer products overall, beyond television sets: "We’re surrounded by anonymous, poorly made objects ... what we’ve shown is that people do care. It’s not just about aesthetics. They care about things that are thoughtfully conceived and well made."

All of which tips his hand to perhaps what Jobs was thinking: That there was a lot more work to be done.

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