For all the talk about a hyped networked television set allegedly in the works at Apple, we’re way more comfortable pondering on a dozen convincing reasons why such a device wouldn’t make much sense from the business standpoint (even though true fans would no doubt embrace it). In his 2008 talk at the D8 conference with the Wall Street Journal technology columnist Walt Mossberg, Steve gave some memorable quotes as to why nobody had cracked the TV yet.

He first likened the state of the TV industry to being kinda “Tower of Bableish”, actually “balkanized”, before remarking how folks go to TV to turn their brain off. Interactive TV sets just don’t lend themselves to this passive medium, he observed. Jobs also recalled how he used to think TV networks conspired to dumb as down, but later figured out they’re just giving us what we want – light entertainment not requiring heavy thinking.

Funny how Jobs’s thoughts nowadays hold ground pretty much on their own. What’s truly remarkable, Steve came to those realizations at least 15 years ago. From the Internet archives (thus explaining poor quality), have a look at the above 1998 clip with Jobs in full swing mode educating devotees on the future of television. And while you’re at it, go past the fold for his take on the state of the TV industry dated 2008.

He’s literally saying same things, just wording them slightly differently. We’re eager to hear your opinion. What the two clips mean for the prospect of an Apple-branded HDTV set? Hit us in comments. And here’s everything Steve Jobs has ever said about television.


And if you don’t have the time to watch that short snippet above, here’s the full quote:

The problem with innovation in the television industry is the go-to-market strategy. The television industry fundamentally has a subsidized business model that gives everybody a set top box for free, or for $10 a month. And that pretty much squashes innovation because no one is willing to buy a set top box. Ask TiVo. Ask Replay TV. Ask Roku, ask Vudu, ask us, ask Google in a few months. Sony’s tried, Panasonic’s tried, we’ve all tried. So, all you can do is add a box onto the TV system.

You can say, ‘I’ll add another little box with another one’. You end up with a table full of remotes, cluster full of boxes, bunch of UIs. The only way that’s ever gonna change is if you really go back to square one and you tear up the set top box and design it with a consistent UI and deliver it to the customer in a way they’re willing to pay for it. Right now there’s no way to do that. So that’s the problem with the TV market.

We decided, do we want a better TV or a better phone? The phone won out because there was a way to get it to market. What do we want more, a better tablet or a better TV? Well, probably a better tablet. But it doesn’t matter because there’s no way to get a TV to market. The TV is going to lose until there is a viable go to market strategy, otherwise you’re just making another TiVO.

That make sense?

It’s not a problem of technology, it’s not a problem of vision, it’s a fundamental go-to-market problem.

There isn’t a cable operator that’s national, there’s a bunch of operators. And it’s not like there’s GSM, where you build a phone and it works in all these other countries. No every single country has different standards. It’s very “tower of Babble-ish”, no that’s not the right word. Balkanized. I’m sure smarter people than us will figure this out.

But when we say Apple TV is a hobby, that’s why we use that phrase.

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