Steve Jobs on television

I’ve written two pieces this week on television, with the intent of exploring what changes, if any, may be coming:

I’m working on Part 3, which is about what might be next given these constraints, and in the process re-watched Steve Jobs talking about the problems with TV at D8 in 2010.

It absolute fits the story arc I’m on; I couldn’t find a transcript, so I quickly made one using the amazing Draft webapp:

Question: A topic that was noticeably absent tonight in your talk was television. And you talked about how to make the iPad and iPhone you needed to throw out the human interface in order to really make those products interactive. Do you think it’s time to throw out the interface for television, the classic up-down-left-right, and bring in a new human interface to make television truly interactive, and if so, when is Apple going to do something in that arena?

Jobs: The problem with the television market, 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 any opportunity for innovation, because nobody is willing to buy a set-top box. Ask Tivo. Ask ReplayTV. Ask Roku. Ask Vudu. Ask us. Ask Google in a few months. All you can do – Sony has tried as well, Panasonic has tried, a lot of people have tried, they’ve all failed – so all you can do is add a box on to the TV system. You can say, “Well, gosh, I noticed my HD TV has a bunch of HDMI ports on it, well, I’ll just add another little box with another one!”

Well, you just end up with a table full of remotes, a cluster full of boxes, a bunch of different UIs, and that’s the situation we have today.

The only way that’s ever going to change is if you can really go back to square one and tear up the set-top box, and redesign it from scratch with a consistent UI, across all these different functions, and get it to the consumer in a way they’re willing to pay for it. And right now, there’s no way to do that. So that’s the problem with the TV market.

We decided what product do we want the most: a better TV or a better phone. Well, the phone won out, but there was no chance to do a better TV because there was no way to get it to market.

What do we want more? A tablet or a better TV? Well, probably a tablet, but it doesn’t matter, because if we wanted a better TV, there’s no way to get it to market. The TV is going to lose until there is a better – until there is a viable go-to-market strategy. Otherwise you’re just making another Tivo. That’s the fundamental problem. It’s not a problem with technology, it’s not a problem of vision, it’s a fundamental go-to-market problem.

Question: In the phone area you were able to recreate that go-to-market strategy by working with a carrier, so does it make sense to partner with a cable operator?

Jobs: Well, then you run into another problem, which is there isn’t a cable operator that’s national. There’s a bunch of cable operators. And then, it’s not like there’s a GSM standard where you build a phone for the US, and it also works in all these other countries. No, every single country has different standards, different government approvals, it’s very, uhm, what’s the right word, tower-of-Babelish, no that’s not the right word, balkanized, it’s very balkanized.

I’m sure smarter people than us will figure this out. But that’s why when say Apple TV is a hobby, that’s why we use that phrase.

Incidentally, were I to define the niche I hope stratechery fills in the blogosphere, understanding and articulating go-to-market strategies isn’t a bad place to start.

Part 3 soon.