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Apple's smart TV project - what we (think we) know so far

Ben Camm-Jones | Nov. 28, 2011
It's widely accepted in the technology industry that Apple is working on a smart, internet-connected TV device. But what do we really know about the 'iTV' so far?

However, Jobs didn't actually specify that voice control was what he was referring to when he mentioned "the simplest user interface you could imagine", so there's no guarantee that he wasn't talking about motion sensors - like Microsoft's Kinect - or something completely different instead.

What will it actually *do*?

Stewart Alsop of Alsop Louie Ventures, also a board member of TiVo and Sonos, reckons that an Apple television in the 15- to 19-inch range and running the company's mobile operating system, iOS, is in the works.

Such a device would not only display video, but also could provide internet access for playing games, run apps and offer access to social platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and Google+, Alsop said.

Over the summer, a former Apple exec spoke to DailyTech on condition of anonymity, confirming the company's plans to make a smart TV set, saying that it would "blow Netflix and all those other guys away".

However, it is clear that competitors are desperate to find out what the Apple television set will actually do. No one really knows yet, but according to analyst Jefferies analyst Peter Misek: "They hope to avoid the fate of other industries and manufacturers who were caught flat footed by Apple. [But] it appears that mainstream TV manufacturers are likely to be at least six to 12 months behind in a best-case scenario."

The name

Of course, there is already a product called the Apple TV. It, however, is not a television set, but merely a set-top box that bridges the gap between the internet and a standard television set.

The Apple TV has long been described by Apple as a 'hobby' - a word that Jobs himself used - but sales of the second-generation of the device have been solid, if unspectacular. But if Apple wants its internet-connected TV to be called Apple TV then it faces a choice between renaming the current Apple TV or discontinuing the product altogether.

However, there is a school of thought that the name could in fact be 'iTV'. It makes sense, as it fits in with Apple's nomenclature, and retains the simplicity that'll ensure that no-one could be in any doubt as to what the product is. The name does, though, potentially clash with that of British television company ITV.

Peter Misek, the analyst at Jeffries whose latest note to investors on the subject of an Apple smart TV has been analysed in detail by Fortune this week, refers to the 'iTV'.

Jeff Robbin in charge?

Last month, Bloomberg reported that three insiders with "knowledge of the project" have confirmed that Jeff Robbin, the software engineer who built iTunes, is guiding development of the Apple television.


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