For years, Apple has been rumored to be working on a television. Plans for the product may have been put on the back burner years ago, though. According to former Wall Street Journal technology reporter Yukari Iwatani Kane, Steve Jobs told employees in 2010 that a TV wasn't a part of Apple's immediate future. "TV is a terrible business," he said, adding that "they don't turn over and the margins suck."
That statement was reportedly made in response to a question at a secret retreat for Apple's top 100 executives and employees. The exchange is detailed in Kane's new book, Haunted Empire: Apple after Steve Jobs. The author says "veterans in the room" weren't convinced Apple had really given up on plans to offer a TV, and that Jobs just wanted them to focus on their current projects. However, as Business Insider points out, we're still waiting for a big-screen Apple TV three years later.
Jobs apparently didn't want to give up on the living room entirely. The existing Apple TV, the company's diminutive set-top box, was meant to remain a "hobby" until the company lined up additional content deals. Presumably, a full-blown television would have been more viable with a deeper content library behind it. Of course, traditional broadcasters don't seem to be particularly keen on cooperating with new players in the living room. Rumors long suggested that content negotiations were holding up Apple's big-screen TV. Difficulty securing content deals has also been blamed for Intel's decision to sell its OnCue TV service to Verizon.
It seems unlikely that Apple has completely given up on plans to produce a big-screen television. In fact, a rumor from last summer claimed the company was considering compensating broadcast networks for commercial skipping associated with such a product. But we don't know if that concession would be enough to get the major networks onboard, and such a deal still wouldn't address Jobs' concerns over margins and turnover.
There was a time when an Apple-branded television seemed like a foregone conclusion. Now, I wonder whether we'll ever see one at all. With Amazon and Google rumored to be developing their own set-top boxes for the living room, Apple may be better off focusing on making its existing TV product more formidable.