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back to article Apple shouldn't bother with TV...

Can nobody rid of us the barefoot CEO? He may be gone, but Steve Jobs continues to manipulate the press from the beyond – this time through his biographer, Walter Isaacson. The Steve Jobs biography launches the hype for Apple's next great product, a TV. "It would be seamlessly synced with all of your devices and with iCloud... …

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Joke

Can I be the first to point out

That the author got it wrong. The actualy quote should have read:

"It would be seamlessly synced with all of your devices and with iCloud... It will have the simplest user interface you could imagine. I finally cracked," Jobs reportedly told his Boswell.

There all better.

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Trollface

The "biographer" hasn't checked up on the "bio" part recently.

Too soon?

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Childcatcher

ElReg's big grain of salt

Andrew should perhaps remember Bill Ray's "Why the iPhone will fail and fail badly" before attempting to look into the future....

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(Written by Reg staff) Bronze badge

Re: ElReg's big grain of salt

That was my inspiration for the piece. Link inserted now.

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One remote to rule them all

That would be the killer app in the living room.

When Apple does that, everybody will go bananas over the pure genius and just ignore that some would also want a screen larger than 35 inches, one that kids can't scratch and not super glossy pls.

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Boffin

I know you're joking but ...

It really would be nice to have a remote control without 50+ tiny buttons on it. The current Apple TV remote has just a 5-way, a menu button and a play button. That's it. And it does everything you need and more.

The TV-equipment industry really missed out on their usability classes.

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Silver badge

@Ralph

Maybe they saw use cases which you didn't. I like having shortcuts for things like changing to a specific channel, pausing, skipping back and forth, choosing an input mode, getting program info, setting an alarm, switching to text, muting and more. They're all available on a simple to use remote control but I can go into the simple-to-use menu system if I want to do less common things more slowly and with added difficulty, like adjust the contrast ratio.

Just because they think differently doesn't mean they didn't go to class. They thought well, and got it right. What they didn't think of is locking people in to an expensive (especially for the content creators) content delivery system.

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Thumb Down

Hatred is an ugly thing

Remote controls are not a good example of usability, if they were most people would use them and all their functions, I am guessing look at my TV remote that 95% of people I meet press about 20 of the buttons (including the ten number ones).

Could they be better designed, yes, does your blind hatred of apple just make you froth at any apple piece, yes.

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WTF?

surely the cost of publishing on iTunes (or youtube for that matter) is less than comcast cable?

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Silver badge
Linux

Fanboys ignoring the inconvenient.

> Remote controls are not a good example of usability

Sure they are.

They are great examples of how a company approaches design and how that approach impacts usability and usefulness. Apple remotes are the perfect example of real world practical usability and usefulness taking a back seat to dubious design goals.

A conventional remote may have "too many buttons" but it does include enough such that basic features one usually associates with modern video appliances. Admittedly, the OSD interfaces that Apple employs could take up the slack here, but they don't.

Apple remotes are also a great example of Apple ignoring established UI elements that are already well understood by the users. Apple's TV interfaces are a great example of Apple ignoring HID guidelines that fanboys like to crow about so much.

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Anonymous Coward

Not just Apple

I've seen specs of next generation TV systems passing by, with processors running at 1GHz and more, with plenty of RAM, and with some very advanced features.

Anon for obvious reasons

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Gold badge
FAIL

Which is why they'd be barking.

The success of Apple under Jobs was in spotting something newish and good that wasn't being "done right" and producing a "right" version.

Everyone knew what was wrong with MP3 players; the cruddy User Interface and the inconvenience of getting music onto them. Apple fixed that.

Everyone knew what was wrong with smartphones; buggy, unreliable, underpinned with cruddy OEM drivers, byzantine UIs, no updates after sale and a vertiable diaspora of application sources. Apple fixed that, although I have to add here that I reckon that RIM fixed that one first and just forgot to sell it.

What's wrong with your telly? Everyone else has had donkey's to work on this one. If anything, the trend here is towards a panel, a source (cable, sat, Apple TV, BD, whatever), a sound system and to work toward interoperation between manufacturers. Producing a "walled garden" solution here looks suspiciously like swimming against the tide. Also here, producing one "ideal" telly ain't going to work. Size *is* important.......

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What's wrong with my telly?

Perhaps not the TV per se, but as for the general activities around watching TV...

I loathe the Sky and Sky+ remotes. Too many buttons. Not obvious how to use them. Difficult to use in a darkened room. The pause/ rewind etc. is good but not unique now. For me, a context-sensitive touchpad on a display like an iPod touch/ small Android tablet/ smartphone would be an improvement...

As for the TV broadcast standards, it is sad that there still is apparently no seamless way to make sure the correct picture aspect ratio is correctly applied. Why isn't there a place for this information in the standard? Maybe there is, but it is not implemented very well by either TV sellers or set top box sellers or the broadcasters.

Do the standards allow the BBC to interleave different streams of their own (video and audio channels)? Why not?

Or the end user to do the same? Why not?

Since I get lots of TV channels and radio channels through the same pipe to the same set top box, it would be nice to be able to set up a test match with TV video and the BBC Radio commentary.

Why can't I do this?

I expect it's the same lack of awareness of what customers want (even if they don't know it yet) exhibited by the Windows boys, Linux boys and Nokias of the world.

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WTF?

'inconvenience of getting music onto [mp3 players]'?

Connect cable - drag and drop, was inconvenient? Seriously?

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Meh

Sadly Gerry

It appears that was the case due to you getting a down vote

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Bronze badge
FAIL

Apple fixed that?

> Everyone knew what was wrong with MP3 players; the cruddy User Interface and the inconvenience of getting music onto them. Apple fixed that.

You sure iTunes makes this easier than the way things used to be done, i.e. copy a bunch of files via usb? There was loads of (free) software for doing that the last time i looked for my parents years ago. And don't forget you need windows or a mac.

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Silver badge

itunes is crap. It is about the only reason I have a dual boot system.

Personally I find the Kindle the most easy system to use.

You can hook up USB and copy/paste.

You can click on the "download" button on various websites and the info gets there wirelessy.

You can email data from anywhere.

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"What's wrong with your telly?"

The problem is not the hardware it's the content, or rather access to content. The problem with Telly is that, you can't watch what you want to watch, when you want to watch it.

That's why Netflix is so popular, but it's only part of the solution. If Apple sold a TV with all the free to view channels and a $30 per month subscription model for all the major networks content streamed over the net to the TV they would sell millions.

Imagine you switch on your 'iveTV' and after the first episode of the new season of True Blood airs, you can continue to watch the entire season straight away, you can watch the last 5 seasons of Doctor Who one after the other, every episode of The Big Bang Theory or The IT Crowd whenever you want, (without having to use some crappy 4OD youtube video), and then switch to the evening News.

It would require major deals with all the big networks, but Apple have done this in Music, Films and now Books, so it's now insurmountable. The future has to happen at some point.

That, I think would qualify as having, 'cracked it'.

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touchscreen remotes

"For me, a context-sensitive touchpad on a display like an iPod touch/ small Android tablet/ smartphone would be an improvement..."

Samsung have one of these for their phones and TVs. You get choices between a simple, full, keyboard, game style controls and swipe pad for different context uses. Controlling the TV and using the phone as an DLNA server over wifi is a very nice feature.

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Stop

ITunes is crud

But this wasnt what made using an mp3 player hard. The difficulties that were resolved that I remember:

1) You needed a content management system to store all your stuff, these were clumsy and hideous. Lets not pretend otherwise.

2) To drag and drop an item, you had numerous steps. First you needed to find and install the drivers for your player, then connect it to your PC, then wait for it all to setup, then you would have to work out where to store the music/videos (usually in some random folder on the device).

3) The UI of my old MP3 player was bloody awful, no proper searching, no categorising, etc.

Now I am not claiming iTunes is particularly great, in fact I hate it with a passion, but it did give a one stop place, and was an easier tool than anything people had really done before.

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Linux

Problem already solved, by someone other than Apple.

> The problem is not the hardware it's the content,

> or rather access to content. The problem with

> Telly is that, you can't watch what you want to

> watch, when you want to watch it.

Tivo already solved that problem.

Kaledescape also solved that problem but they are the only vendor that has survived the ensuing inevitable legal challenges from Hollywood. So any other similar products have to be DIY.

> you can watch the last 5 seasons of Doctor Who one after the other

Got a lot of storage on the PVR. Can do that already. Could have done that in the 90s too.

At $2 or $3 or $5 a pop, stuff ads up fast. A lot of the stuff on iTunes that isn't new releases can be bought on spinny disk for what Apple wants to charge you to rent it.

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We're talking about different things.

Tivo records, Apple will stream. Legal issues from Hollywood? Apple have been talking about deals with major providers.

PVR is great as long as you know you want to record something. If you only heard of D.Who because of Matt Smith, lets say your American for example, then you wont have 5 years of recording. As for the pricing. Apple were talking about $30 per month for everything. Hence the need to negotiate hard with the big networks. But then I said all that in my last post.

All this was in the Wall Street Journal last November. Tivo is great but it's not what I'm talking about at all.

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Pint

Re: What's wrong with my telly?

"I loathe the Sky and Sky+ remotes. Too many buttons. Not obvious how to use them. Difficult to use in a darkened room. The pause/ rewind etc. is good but not unique now. For me, a context-sensitive touchpad on a display like an iPod touch/ small Android tablet/ smartphone would be an improvement..."

Although I haven't got one, I've seen some Logitech Harmony remotes that are backlit and I believe customiseable with touchscreen displays which might do the job.

I've used my Android phone to control Blurays and I there is a MythTV app for Android and iPhone but I'm loathed to buy a mobile phone to use as a remote (or leave my mobile at home so the rest of the family who don't have Android phones or iPods/iPads/iPhones can change the TV channels).

"As for the TV broadcast standards, it is sad that there still is apparently no seamless way to make sure the correct picture aspect ratio is correctly applied. Why isn't there a place for this information in the standard? Maybe there is, but it is not implemented very well by either TV sellers or set top box sellers or the broadcasters."

Works fine for me, IIRC Widescreen switching is part of the standards. Not sure how it does it over HDMI but in the SCART days it would do it via a connection on the SCART cable. Maybe it's a setting not set on the device. Never seen any problems myself switching between 4:3 and 16:9 on various boxes (Freeview boxes, OnDigital box, Sky boxes).

"Do the standards allow the BBC to interleave different streams of their own (video and audio channels)? Why not?"

I gather that DVB does allow for different audio tracks although I've not seen any programmes with alternative audio streams on the BBC, although I gather that it's possible to include an audio description stream. I remember in the old analogue satellite TV days you could get radio channels on some of the TV channels by just changing the audio settings (IIRC each channel had 2 or 3 audio tracks).

"Or the end user to do the same? Why not?"

You should be able to select which audio stream you want, assuming they are broadcast with the video.

"Since I get lots of TV channels and radio channels through the same pipe to the same set top box, it would be nice to be able to set up a test match with TV video and the BBC Radio commentary.

Why can't I do this?"

Not sure about Cable, but at least on Freeview the radio channels are transmitted on different muxes to the TV channels so you'd need a tuner for each mux. Technically it would probably be possible maybe with a dual tuner box, or a box of some sort connected to the internet (Youview box maybe) which could grab the radio stream and play this instead of the normal stream. Or the Beeb could offer radio streams alongside the TV streams.

Maybe there just hasn't been enough call for it to spend time on doing such a thing. Although there's nothing stopping you doing it yourself (maybe grab a copy of MythTV and have a play).

"I expect it's the same lack of awareness of what customers want (even if they don't know it yet) exhibited by the Windows boys, Linux boys and Nokias of the world."

But do customers want it? Just because you want it, doesn't mean the other millions of people in the country are that bothered. I'm sure though you could always setup an online petition to try and drum up support for such a feature, maybe there are millions out there who want such a feature that are all sitting there grumbling about not being able to do what you suggested.

Rob

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Let's not pretend

The old pretence of Windows complexity to justify the cost of Apple products is alive and well.

Of course Windows Explorer is hideously difficult to use, and it's absolutely criminal the way that it doesn't allow you to group your Country Funk seperately from your Disco Folk, but good grief - Right-click, Send To, end of. No drivers required.

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Also fixed car stereos, good and proper.

Also fixed the massive inconvenience of bunging any old mp3 player, USB key, mobile phone you want straight into your car stereo USB slot with, oh, what was that super convenient chain of AUX cables, FM transmitters, chargers and batteries for the transmitter, connecting to the cigarette lighter, tuning radio to transmitter, charging ipod, ipod holders and the downright not dangerous in any way handiness of no display or control from the head unit?

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Aspect ratio

On my Samsung LCD the freeview stuff knows what aspect ratio to use AND on the Sky+HD when viewing an HD channel also knows what aspect ratio to use (via an HDMI interface)

If only we had known what a series 6 Samsung TV could do we would not have got a series 5 sure a USB stick with a film on it looks cool but a wireless dongle so I could watch the iplayer without having to plug a laptop in is even better!

Bluetooth remotes would be nice if you could replicate them on your smartphone

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Bronze badge

Integration

"I rarely hear people complain about the complexity of the Sky+ UI, and Jobs' design legacy is all about reducing complexity, not adding to it"

The Sky+ UI is excellent IMO, until it comes to watching Freeview, catch-up TV from another provider, accessing iPlayer, YouTube, iTunes, a photo collection or DVD rips on a local NAS, being a web browser or anything else people might like to do with a single portal to everything.

It's still currently the TV that is the the portal and needs to be directly accessed to use the full variety of options; the Sky box cannot deliver. I'm sure everyone is sick of having to juggle numerous remote controls to do what should be controlled by a single remote through a single portal.

That is where I think St. Steve is coming from; seamless integration to allow anything and moving from one option to another in a consistent and simple manner. Jobs' vision won't truly be "anything" just what Apple permits, using Apple proprietary and expensive kit, which is where it falls down but the vision is sound (if you'll excuse the pun come mixed metaphor).

HDMI itself already offers the potential ability to integrate everything so Jobs' vision is not unique, but it would fit with the usual Apple belief in 'doing it better than everyone else' and doing it in a unified and controlled way which the public will flock to.

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@JC Sky+ UI is excellent?

Compared to Tivo it's bordering on unuseable

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Happy

>I'm sure everyone is sick of having to juggle numerous remote controls to do what should be >controlled by a single remote through a single portal.

I'm not. I own a Harmony One remote.

I never need to reach for anything else. Even better it takes care of switching kit on and off and selecting inputs for whatever activity I want.

Wanna play a game? It switches on the PS3, the TV and the amp then sets the amp to 'DVD Input'.

Stop playing games and want music? It switches off the PS3, switches on the Logitech Touch and sets the amp to 'CD Player'.

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Thumb Up

The older version (Sky/Sky+) is very good. Admittedly that's because there's limited functionality so not much scope for complications.

The newer Sky HD one, not so much. It's klunky and makes poor use of screen real-estate. It's pretty mad that an HD EPG requires two windows to show the same programme information that the SD version can show in just one..and yet it still obscures more of the screen. It also has other questionable design choices like no volume control, no contrast and a picture-in-guide which although it can be hidden will continue to play the audio track.

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Happy

Too True

You can even program macro's to get to those functions you sometimes need but take 2 or 3 button presses with just 1 click :-)

For a cheap remote I love mine, <Joke>of course the wife hates it and doesnt know how to use it properly, to be fair she doesnt get to use it that much :-) </Joke>

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Anonymous Coward

Simplicity? Yes please

I would buy one if it did "the internets" as well as Freeview HD and the Apple stuff.

Except they don't have proper telly in the US, so it will probably need another box to work in the UK - so will stick to my 2nd gen AppleTV thanks. Shame really as the kids can't figure out how to switch any of my kit on yet. Luckily.

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Apple TV2 is very good when compared to a bare TV ...

I think I'd rather see an Apple TV version 3 box to plug in to an HDMI TV rather than a full Apple TV set.

An Apple TV 3 would be great if it had the following additions ...

+ Bluetooth for optional keyboard to make it easy to enter search and login account text.

+ Dual tuners with the option for more tuners via USB/Thunderbolt

+ Freeview/Freesat HD tuners for the UK .. others tuners for around the world

+ Optional use of NAS drives / iTunes for storing recorded programmes - to keep content owners happy this could be done using iPlayer/4OD/etc style expiry dates.

I can see Apple going for the bluetooth keyboard option but the rest just does not gel with their current view of content ownership and streaming.

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Silver badge

An unlikely wishlist

Apple kit is there to sell more Apple kit and services i.e. you won't be getting tuners etc. They want you to buy from their media store and watch on your TV, that is the sole purpose of the box.

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Bronze badge

I'm NO expert

But when you talk about Apple cutting deals for TV content, well I'd imagine that might go a lot easier this time around (the first being them trying to get the labels onboard with iTunes) due to the sheer size of the userbase, the ubiquity of the "iSomething" platform, the seriously deep pockets that Apple now has, and the dollar signs the content providers can probably see from all that...?

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Alert

1925 calling...

Well an Apple TV may sound like a crazy idea, but...

"For God's sake, go down to reception and get rid of a lunatic who's down there. He says he's got a machine for seeing by wireless. Watch him, he may have a razor on him." - Daily Express News Editor to a junior.

The "lunatic" was John Logie Baird.

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Trollface

John Logie Baird worked for crApple then we would all be watching valve powered 12" black and white screens because crApple would have sued anyone who tried to improve it.

And John Logie Baird was looney, he didn't patent TV and sue everone else who made one.

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Holmes

Someone's going to sort out the 'lounge computer'

The integration of video, audio, TV, games, computing, intarwebs, applications, and a whole host of other things must eventually happen. It's like it's 2007 all over again -- you remember those dark days before the iPhone changed the mobile space forever.

The existing systems are OK, but definitely not great - in a similar way as smartphones were pre-iPhone. Currently you need lots of different systems each with different look & feel and functionality, not to mention loads of remote controls.

Someone's going to end up owning this space and Apple's pretty well positioned to be the one.

Not sure I want an Apple telly though. I'd rather something of the size of a Mini-Mac with tuners, discs, cd/dvd/bluray player, networking, peripherals, etc.

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Happy

Except for the lack of tuners, you just described my PS3. It's been the media player at home for years. Oh, and you can buy an official BT remote for it, which has all the options needed for most things. Now if they could only add a tuner, it'd be perfect!

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Anonymous Coward

Great. Now you've done it. Now Apple is going to have to sue Sony and have the PS3 removed from the market.

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Having seen the variety of UIs on current generation Freesat and Freeview devices, and being very much unimpressed with them, perhaps someone needs to sit and back take a look at the overall experience. I'm just not quite sure the Apple way is the way here.

But I'd pay good money for a device that let me choose what to watch, when, with integrated DVD/BR, and be able to let me select alternative content providers (e.g. Xbox, PC/other HDMI source) and wrap it up in a great interface. Yes, I know I can sort of achieve that by buying one of those all-in-one remotes but they're not often that great, and frankly it's a kludge solution. Far better to have a proper integrated solution, I think.

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Facepalm

All I want is to control my tv with my phone. It'd be a million times better to look at the guide on the phone while the programme you're watching carries on going on the big screen...

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It's not an original idea...

Google TV and YouView are both attempts to deliver TV over the top without a guaranteed QoS from a combined TV and broadband provider like Virgin or Sky. Right now, there seems to be more desire to provide the services than a demand to consume them, but if anyone can bring a gaggle of glassy-eyed fools to drink at the well, it's Apple.

On the other hand, the success of TV on the iPad etc seems to be largely in divorcing it from the traditional large fixed screen for people with more flexible viewing demands, so you could argue that Apple TV isn't reaching Apple's usual market. And on the other, other hand, as Apple's usual market ages and finds itself less mobile because of family etc, a TV from their favourite brand of cash-to-shiny-toy converter could be just what they want. And when it comes to Apple, it's all in the wanting.

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Isn't that just what people thought about the ipod?

And iphone and iwhatever.

ithink that there couldn't be anything simpler than flicking channels, but then icould imagine a nice on-screen programme with previews and all as an alternative - granted some TVs already feature that, but not all do and of course they could look better. So go Apple, surprise us, amaze the reg hacks, and imight even dream about buying one - after the second price reduction or so.

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Trollface

Something wrong with this article

With the abundance of articles about Jobs recently, there's something wrong with this one - it's not majorly kissing the ass of Steve Jobs!

Does a TV need Apple's input? For the fanbois or those who must have the latest (and hideously expensive) gadgets to show off to everyone and anyone, then they'll want one, just for the little Apple logo, no matter how useless it is (like seeing someone talking on an iPhone, and then pulling out an iPod Touch to listen to music on!), but for those of us who are in the real world, a big resounding NO!!!!

With the other devices that provide streaming content (like media PCs, consoles, etc), Apple would be INCREDIBLY late to the market, and not only that, but you're bolting the 2 items together when they don't need it - you get more flexibility from having a TV and a separate play-back device, but nobody said that Apple entheusiasts want flexibility, they prefer being hand-cuffed and told how to think by Apple's UI - yes, simple to use, because it does so little and is so restrictive

I personally like to be able to view things how I want to view them, so if I want to watch YouTube, I'll watch it, if I want to watch iPlayer, I'll watch it, if I want to be restricted to iTunes, and have no Flash, then I'd have to have a labotomy first, and then I'd buy Apple products :-P

Give me freedom of choice, give me paying a reasonable price, give me separate devices for my separate needs, and so give me NOTHING made by Apple...

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FAIL

Huh?

I think you must live in some parallel universe where TV-related gadgets are not universally shit. I am completely sick of 'separate devices' when NONE of them work well ("of course I'd love yes another remote with another 80 miniscule buttons just so I can hear this movie"). It's got to the point where I just don't watch TV any more, and since it's the advertisers that are paying for most of it, there is money to be had in helping people actually watch stuff instead of fighting with (almost entirely without exception) unusably crap devices. Pursuing this luddite status-quo you suggest is not the answer.

As the article says, the world of TV is where the phone industry used to be - drowning in an endless drizzle of mediocrity. Somebody, Apple or not, needs to give it a really big shake-up, and they will reap plenty by doing so. Assuming they don't fuck it up, which Apple has a reasonably good track record of not doing.

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Facepalm

I would have thought it was easy

TV-size iPad with a WiiMote-like device for controlling it. Simples.

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Silver badge

Don't knock it until you see it

Wait until you actually see the product before you declare it to be useless and too complicated. It depends what new ideas Apple has come up with. Possibly it is something that nobody has even thought of before.

People said the iPad would be useless, but Apple's shareholders certainly aren't complaining about it now.

As far as content is concerned, there's already a lot of stuff in the iTunes store, so the challenge of getting it onto a new TV product is not insurmountable.

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Well

I'm 'locked in' to my cable provider and the HD-DVR they provide. It is a steaming pile of shit basically. If something could break that lock-in I'd be very very happy. But surely there is no need for all that to be built into a physical TV? An addon box like the AppleTV, Roku et al would be fine surely?

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Boffin

Hmmm....

Simplicity. Yes. But it isn't going to happen.

Before I jaikbroke my Apple TV2, (so it would do the complex stuff) it was too tied down in its media sources. It couldn't even feed or stream from a local system unless it was an iTunes system on the local network. I believe (I could be wrong here) that Apple even went as far as being able to block the services which mimicked iTunes. (I couldn't test that one, because I don't have iTunes; asside from the ATV2, I have no other Apple kit)

The Apple TV2 was a tied down disaster in my book. Not worth the money on its own; and it was less than a hundred pounds even back then.

Jailbroken, it is possible to stream from SMB shares and do much more besides (which you'd need to because there is no hard drive on the ATV2) so if Apple are creating a TV interface along these lines, then I couldn't see a market for it.

It would need to not only break the mould, it would have to make a completely new mould that will make people go ... Wow! ... and call me a cynic, but I can't see it happening under the kind of tightly walled structure of the ATV2. However, there are 40 billion reasons in Apple's bank that could yet prove me wrong.

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