Walter Isaacson, Steve Jobs:
“I’d like to create an integrated television set that is completely easy to use,’ he told me. ‘It would be seamlessly synced with all of your devices and with iCloud.’ No longer would users have to fiddle with complex remotes for DVD players and cable channels. ‘It will have the simplest user interface you could imagine. I finally cracked it."
Yesterday, Apple added an interesting feature to the Apple TV: The ability to stream audio to any AirPlay device.
That's a neat feature, but more importantly, I think it shows us where Apple is going with television.
The most problematic part of home theater isn't the screen or the media player, it's the audio.
If you want surround sound, your only choice is to buy a receiver, a giant box that every wire has to be routed through. Then you have to run wires across your living room, turning it into a spiderweb of audiophilia.
And then you have to deal with the receiver itself. Which inputs do the TV and receiver need to be on? Which remote do you use for each? Which remote do you use for volume? So you get a universal remote with a hundred buttons, which sort of works with everything. Then you have to train your family on how the system works, and they roll their eyes because they just want to watch a movie.
It's a huge pain in the ass that we put up with, and that makes it a prime market for Apple to disrupt.
Since that Steve Jobs quote hit the web, we've all been wondering why Apple would bother with a TV set, what it could do that the current Apple TV can't. Maybe now we have the answer.
Imagine an Apple TV that includes, or is sold alongside, AirPlay surround speakers. Knowing Apple, they would fit the left, right, center, and subwoofer channels into the display itself. But the rear channels could be AirPlay speakers with rechargeable batteries.
You could take this idea even further. Imagine watching a movie on the big screen, streaming the audio to your iPhone's Earpods, while your partner is sleeping down the hall. Now imagine you and a couple of friends doing the exact same thing, talking about the movie over iMessage. You get to have fun with your friends, and your partner gets to sleep. It's the perfect Apple narrative.
Who knows what the Apple TV set will look like, or if it'll ever be released. But I'm willing to bet audio will be a huge part of the equation. Apple definitely has a renewed interest in it lately.
The link to the book "Steve Jobs" in this post is an Amazon affiliate link that supports this blog.