Is Apple Building a TV Or Not?

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NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- It's long been rumored that Apple will eventually release its own television set, changing the way we watch television forever. However, a new book on Apple, Haunted Empire: Apple After Steve Jobs, may tell a different story. Or it may not.

In the new book, written by former Wall Street Journal reporter, Iwatani Kane, Steve Jobs at his last top 100 meeting, (Apple holds meetings for its top 100 employees every year to discuss new products, a very secretive meeting), said that Apple would not be building a television, simply because the economics didn't work. "TV is a terrible business," Jobs is quoted as saying. "They don't turn over and the margins suck."

Pretty damning comments, right?

Not so fast, my friends.

Jobs was notorious for saying one thing in public, and doing another. Just look at his stance on several of Apple's biggest products: video iPod, iPad mini, iPhone, etc. In the past, he had damned all of these products in one way or another, the most recent being the iPad mini.

On Apple's fiscal fourth-quarter earnings call in 2010, Jobs took a swipe at 7-inch tablets, saying the size of the devices, most of them running Google's Android operating system, was not conducive to a great app experience. Here are his comments in full:

"I'd like to comment on the avalanche of tablets poised to enter the market in the coming months. First, it appears to be just a handful of credible entrants, not exactly an avalanche. Second, almost all of them use seven-inch screens as compared to iPad's near 10-inch screen. Let's start there. One naturally thinks that a seven-inch screen would offer 70% of the benefits of a 10-inch screen. Unfortunately, this is far from the truth. The screen measurements are diagonal, so that a seven-inch screen is only 45% as large as iPad's 10-inch screen. You heard me right; just 45% as large

If you take an iPad and hold it upright in portrait view and draw an imaginary horizontal line halfway down the screen, the screens on the seven-inch tablets are a bit smaller than the bottom half of the iPad display. This size isn't sufficient to create great tablet apps in our opinion."

Now, the iPad mini is one of Apple's best selling products, helping Apple to sell 26 million iPads in its most recent quarter. 

Jobs was notorious for this kind of stuff, so it's difficult to read too much into this, especially considering he told his authorized biographer, Walter Isaacson, something completely different. The following is a passage of text from Jobs' biography, entitled, 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.'"

Also See: What Exactly Will Be in the Apple TV?