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Steve Jobs Vowed to Never Make an Apple Television

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Contradicting a notable passage in the Walter Isaacson-penned biography, a new book claims former CEO Steve Jobs was dead set against an Apple-branded television.

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Less than a year since its buzzworthy debut last July, Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) Chromecast has stolen the spotlight and enjoyed much of the attention heaped upon the growing media-center market. With an inexpensive $35 price tag, a dead-simple UI, and the support from Android, iOS (NASDAQ:AAPL), Mac, and Windows (NASDAQ:MSFT) devices, Google's HDMI stick quickly became a best-selling solution for cord-cutters eager to crawl out from underneath the thumb of Big Cable.

But as much press and positive word of mouth that the Chromecast has accumulated, there's been almost as much talk for another device -- despite the fact that it doesn't, and may never, exist.

For a much longer time than the Chromecast has been around, rumors have swirled about an Apple-branded television set "just around the corner." Steve Jobs even stoked the fires of the Apple rumor mill with comments he made to author Walter Isaacson in the high-profile 2011 biography about the former CEO.

"I'd like to create an integrated television set that is completely easy to use," Jobs famously intimated. Rather than add to the growing pile of remote controls in the house, "it will have the simplest user interface you could imagine," he said. "I finally cracked it."

Well, not only was Apple beaten to the punch for a media center with the "simplest user interface you could imagine," it now appears that Jobs' comments contradict a very firm position he expressed before a group of 100 Apple executives, managers, and employees.

According to a new book by former Wall Street Journal Apple beat reporter Yukari Iwatani Kane, Steve Jobs vowed that Apple would never, ever make a company-branded television set, claiming it to be bad business.

In Haunted Empire: Apple After Steve Jobs -- as reported by Business Insider -- Yukari explains that in 2010, at an annual superprivate meeting with 100 of Apple's cream of the crop, Jobs talked to his flock about upcoming projects.

"You've got Steve Jobs sitting right here," the CEO allegedly said on the last day of the meeting. "You're my guys, you can ask me anything you want. I don't care how dumb it is or how insulting it is. I want to make you all feel comfortable about whatever questions you have about the company."

Immediately managing to make Jobs go back on his word, one person in the audience asked if Apple was planning on releasing a television set. Jobs quickly asserted, without hesitation, "No."

"TV is a terrible business," Jobs said. "They don't turn over, and the margins suck," referring to the long life span of the television set versus a smartphone or tablet, which consumers replace every couple of years or so.

But that isn't to say that Jobs didn't want to completely avoid the media center industry. Jobs added that the Apple TV set-top box would remain "a hobby" as it continued to gather content and a larger audience.

Although some folks in the room doubted Jobs' reluctance to release a TV and assumed it was his usual expedient manner to keep his underlings focused on current projects, it's been years since Jobs made both contradictory comments, and we still don't have an Apple TV set on the market. Even more confusing, current CEO Tim Cook told NBC's Brian Williams in late 2012 that the TV market was "an area of intense interest," adding, "I can't say more than that."

Maybe Cook was as ambivalent about the project as we are still uncertain of its likelihood.

But as the media center market continues to grow and customers grow more wary of the monopolistic power that cable companies have acquired -- not to mention the possibility it could get even worse with the merger between Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSA) and Time Warner (NYSE:TWC) looming on the horizon -- consumers are more ready than ever to drop the expensive and antiquated method to watch television content. And although the Apple TV had a head start, the Chromecast appears to be the one leading cord-cutters away from those monthly subscriptions.

Unless Apple soon changes the game with a new TV set or a sizable and attractive overhaul to the Apple TV box, Cupertino could have a hard time catching up in the burgeoning war over people's living rooms.
No positions in stocks mentioned.
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