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Why did Steve Jobs have no desire to get into cable?

March 17th, 2014

apple tv jobs dish disney cableIt’s become almost an urban legend around the Apple Corporation’s campus in Cupertino, California about Steve Jobs’ open disdain for entering into the cable business. Back in the 90s and early 00s, this made sense, Apple wasn’t doing well and entering into the TV business is an enormous task. But, circa 2014, as Apple is one of the most dominant, and literally one of the most cash-rich companies in the world. So the question remains, why was Job so against Apple entering the TV market, and will that change with Apple’s current leaders?

The Verge reported this week on some of Jobs’ comments several years ago. Unlike most of his natural tendencies, Jobs’ displeasure with the cable distribution industry was purely financial — ignoring any design improvements or flaws that could be corrected. Of course, the latter are the tidbits that the legendary ‘tinkerer’ loved to run with. But that didn’t seem to be Jobs’ thinking here.

Jobs’ specific objection was that the profit margins were terrible for that side of the business no matter what way you split the atom. Of course, this wouldn’t be their CEO’s or Apple’s fault. The issue basically every American customer has with their cable service is that they must purchase everything that comes with any given option or package. This means costs go up. But in general it just means things get expensive, for everybody involved.

What Jobs is so keen on is that because of the system cable companies are locked in because of their bloated contracts and totally untethered monopolies, you end up with a model that only makes money on ridiculous scale because it is so poorly run. In other words, it wastes customers money, and gives them a poor product — and naturally, it loses companies money as well. Jobs would never stand for this inefficiency.

Naturally, you wonder if this changes now that DISH has started to break into over-the-top systems after their new deal with Disney and, presumably, ESPN. In other words, does the new leadership in Cupertino start to look more towards offering subscription based services with national providers. Of course, Apple disciples will also want to know if Apple would be getting into the hardware game as well — and that is yet to be seen. What will be interesting is how Dish Network’s deal with Disney affects the movement forward.

The flip side of this of course is whether or not Apple will break into the market itself, potentially greasing the wheels innovation in this sphere even more so — which as everyone knows, Apple has been keen on in the past. There does look to be movement in that arena in Cupertino, and The Verge even reported this week that there were official words coming out of Apple’s top leadership that this could be the case:

9to5Mac reports that Apple is toying with the idea of integrating a “TV tuner component” that “has the ability to control your existing cable boxes and TV stations.” This functionality, which sounds similar to both the Xbox One and Google TV’s approach, would allow users to watch live TV through their Apple TV boxes with “an Apple-designed user interface atop their content.”

It’s yet to be seen whether Apple will be able to increase the over-the-top market pull in the way that Dish has already accomplished with Disney, but the tech industry will be watching to find out.

is an Entertainment and News Blogger for TV and Dish Network.

Categories: DISH & TV news

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