Former Apple CEO Steve Jobs told his biographer, Walter Isaacson, that he had "finally cracked" what he saw as the most fundamental issue with televisions: making them "simple and elegant" along the lines of Apple computers or media players.
With the release of that biography Oct. 24, questions about Apple's television plans have understandably risen back to the surface, also driven in part by a new research note from Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster. "Based on Jan-11 meetings in Asia (not with component suppliers), we believe Apple is investing in manufacturing facilities and securing supply for LCD displays," he wrote. "These displays could range from 3.5-inch mobile displays to 50-inch television displays."
Munster also described a meeting with an unnamed "contact close to an Asian component supplier" who indicated that "prototypes of an Apple television are in the works."
Apple already offers "Apple TV," a palm-sized device that streams content from iTunes and Netflix, and offers cloud access to music and photos. However, it's not a traditional television in the sense of having a built-in screen, and rumors have circulated for several quarters that Apple eventually plans to expand its offerings to a full-size "traditional" television.
In theory, an Apple television could bond together some recent innovations from the company, including the Siri "digital personal assistant" and iCloud, which stores the user's multimedia in the cloud. A product integrating those two applications would resemble both Microsoft's Kinect, which allows the user to navigate through movies and other media with voice commands, and Google TV, which integrates the Web alongside traditional television content.
Munster believes that Apple will launch an all-in-one television "in late 2012 or 2013," based on conversations with a combination of Asian component suppliers and industry contacts, as well as guesswork derived from Apple's patent portfolio and its recent product launches.
Apple announced Jobs' death Oct. 5. A decade of technology hits-including the iPad, iPod and iPhone-had transformed the struggling company into one of the most respected and valued enterprises in the world, and elevated Jobs to superstar status. Apple stores closed Oct. 19 so employees could watch a memorial service held on Apple's campus.
In the biography, Jobs also vents his fury at Apple competitors, notably Google. He pledged to launch "thermonuclear war" against Google Android, which he termed "a stolen product." He also fired off a few barbs at Microsoft, terming them a company "fallen from their dominance" that never proved "as ambitious product-wise as they should have been."
Jobs gave Isaacson unprecedented access to his life, granting him dozens of interviews-the last of which took place during the Apple CEO's final summer. The biography details Jobs' long battle with cancer and attempts to revive Apple in the late 1990s. The book currently tops Amazon's bestseller list, and is widely expected to move quickly off store shelves.