Did Apple's CEO just hint at the possibility of the fabled iTV coming to market?
Taking the stage at the annual Goldman Sachs Technology Confernece, Apple CEO Tim Cook spoke ambiguously about the future of the Apple TV product and indicated that Apple may be exploring an even more marketable TV product.
Currently, the company offers a set-top box, called the Apple TV, which lets users rent or download music, movies, TV shows and more from the iTunes store. Apple TV users can also access content from Netflix, YouTube and other media hubs. But speculation about an Apple-branded flat-screen television has many of us gripping the edges of our seats in anticipation.
A full-on Apple television set, commonly albiet unofficially known as "iTV," might integrate the features and functions of the Apple TV device into a full-sized flat screen television. Some have suggested that hand gestures and Siri, Apple's standout voice-control assistant feature designed for the iPhone 4S, could take the place of a remote control for a potential smart TV manufactured by Apple. Others have said that Apple could launch its own TV subscription service.
Biographer Walter Isaacson even spoke with Steve Jobs about Apple's plans for TV sets before Jobs passed away in 2011. “[An ideal integrated television set] would be seamlessly synced with all of your devices and with iCloud. It will have the simplest user interface you could imagine," Jobs told Isaacson.
Cook at the Goldman conference said that the Apple TV gadget is more of a "hobby" than a product on par with Apple's MacBooks or iDevices, a sentiment that Steve Jobs expressed back in 2010.
"It's a hobby because we don't want to send message we think market is size of Mac, phone, or iPad business," Cook said, according to Business Insider's live blog of the conference. "We don't want to send a signal we think length of the leg of that stool is the same."
"Apple doesn't do hobbies as a general rule," Cook continued, per Mac Rumor's live blog. "We believe in focus and only working on a few things."
Cook said that 3 million Apple TVs were sold last year, with 1.4 million sold in the last quarter. These figures seem to represent a niche market when compared to the 37 million iPhones, 15.4 million iPads and 5.3 million Macs sold during the same quarter.
But, Cook concluded, the Apple TV may have paved the way for bigger and better products.
[D]espite the barriers in that market, for those of us who use [Apple TV], we've always thought there was something there. If we kept following our intuition and kept pulling the string, we might find something that was larger. For those people that have it right now, the customer satisfaction is off the chart. We need something that could go more main-market for it to be a serious category.
If Apple is indeed planning to shake up the television market, the world's largest TV-maker doesn't seem too scared. Chris Moseley, the AV product manager at Samsung, also Apple's leading competitor in the smartphone space, was cool as a cucumber when he spoke with Pocket-lint at Samsung's European Forum in Prague on Monday.
"TVs are ultimately about picture quality. Ultimately. How smart they are...great, but let's face it that's a secondary consideration. The ultimate is about picture quality and there is no way that anyone, new or old, can come along this year or next year and beat us on picture quality," Moseley told Pocket-lint. "So, from that perspective, it's not a great concern but it remains to be seen what they're going to come out with, if anything."
During his appearance at the Goldman conference, Cook also addressed the recent uproar regarding allegations that certain assembly suppliers, including international manufacturing giant Foxconn, had subjected factory employees to unhealthy dangerous working conditions.
"Apple takes working conditions very, very seirously, and we have for a very long time,” Cook said, per ZDNET. “Whether workers are in Europe, or in Asia, or in the United States, we care about every worker.”
Apple on Monday announced that it had called for an investigation of several Chinese factories where iPhones are assembled. The Fair Labor Association, of which Apple is a member, will audit the factories, operating procedures, living facilities, and other aspects of workers' lives with the companies.
“We believe that workers everywhere have the right to a safe and fair work environment, which is why we’ve asked the FLA to independently assess the performance of our largest suppliers,” read a statement by Tim Cook included in the announcement.