“We’re in two businesses today, we’ll very shortly be in three, and a hobby”, Apple’s CEO Steve Jobs told Walt Mossberg in an on-stage interview at yesterday’s D: conference. The first two are computers and digital music (iPod/iTunes), and the third will be the cell phone market which Apple will enter next month with the launch of the iPhone. And the hobby? The company’s recently released set-top-box, the AppleTV.
“The reason I call it a hobby is a lot of people have tried and failed to make it a business. It’s a business that’s hundreds of thousands of units per year but it hasn’t crested to be millions of units per year, but I think if we improve things we can crack that.”
Later on in the Interview, Mossberg describes solving the problem of connecting the PC/Internet to the TV as a holy grail, and asked Jobs again why he referred to the AppleTV as a hobby. While admitting it was a purposely provocative statement, Jobs continued to play down the significance of the device, saying that for now we should think of it as the entree not the main course. “Coming from the PC market you first think about getting content from your PC to your living-room. I’m not sure that’s really what most consumers want”.
Jobs then went on to demonstrate the device’s new capability: watching YouTube videos streamed directly from the Internet. Perhaps a hint of what’s yet to come; the main course as it were. The company had lots of other ideas for the AppleTV, he said, including pulling in other content from the Internet. Although he all but ruled out adding a web browser to the device. “I think a normal web browser is not necessarily what people want in their living room”, he said.
In conceiving the AppleTV, Jobs said that for a long while the company wanted to produce a set-top-box, but didn’t want to have to deal with the Cable companies, and the different technical standards required to do so. It just didn’t make sense. Then he realized that there were a lot more DVD players in existence than traditional set-top-boxes.
“… we just want to be a new DVD player for the Internet age. And that’s what we can be. So our model for the Apple TV is like a DVD player for the Internet.”