Talk to TiVo, Vudu, ReplayTV and others about their costly disappointments in interactive TV, he suggests.
Oh, and be sure to “ask Google in a few months,” he added, serving up the snark. (Google TV debuts in the fall.)
Jobs talked about Internet video and television as part of a wide-ranging 90-minute session at Walter Mossberg’s D: All Things Digital conference in Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif. (technically, the Wall Street Journal).
A member of the audience asked if Jobs had plans to “blow out television” by making the medium interactive.
No, he said. “It’s not a problem of technology, It’s not a problem with vision.” It’s a matter of market fundamentals:
“The television industry fundamentally has a subsidized business model that gives everyone a set-top box for free or for $10 a month. That pretty much squashes any opportunity for innovation because nobody’s willing to buy (an expensive) set-top box,” Jobs said.
“A lot of people have tried. (But) you just end up with a tableful of remotes and UIs.”
What would it take? “If you can 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 give it to the consumer in a way that they’re willing to pay for it. And right now there’s no way to do that.”
Jobs noted that there was no one national cable company, making technical standards a big problem. With international markets, the standards for television hardware is “very balkanized.”
He said Apple made its choice to stay clear of the interactive TV battles a long time ago:
“We decided what problem do we want the most — a better TV or a better phone. And the phone won out — there was no chance to do a better TV because there was no way to get it to the market. … The TV is going to lose until there’s a viable go-to-market strategy, otherwise you’re just making another TiVo.
“I’m sure smarter people than us will figure this out,” he concluded.
Jobs’ company has the underwhelming Apple TV, which he usually refers to as a hobby.
Reports last week said a simple $99 version is coming that would be an “iPhone without a screen” — complete with apps and streaming video, some of it in 1080p HD. Presumably, for example, that means Netflix’s Watch Instantly app would be aboard.
Jobs apparently was not asked about the new Apple TV during the conference session.
Mark Cuban, another All Things Digital speaker, had similarly downbeat things to say about the online video business.