With the publication of Walter Isaacson’s Steve Jobs biography, the internet exploded over the following quote about an Apple TV (as opposed to the Apple TV):

It would be seamlessly synced with all of your devices and with iCloud… It will have the simplest user interface you could imagine. I finally cracked it

Without the book, I’m not sure in what context the quote was placed, but the idea of an Apple TV isn’t new. And, predictably, opinions range from the extremes of thinking an Apple TV would be the best thing ever, to people who think Apple would be crazy to enter the TV space.

I’m in two minds. People argued cellphones were a crazy move for Apple: they were cheap, regularly disposed of, and there was little potential for disruption. The iPhone has since proved otherwise. I’d certainly be interested to see how Apple could ‘reinvent’ television, but there are hurdles the company would have to clear.

Televisions are not devices that are regularly upgraded, and I’m not sure even Apple churning out shiny bi-annual upgrades would change this. Therefore, whatever kit Apple released would have to have longevity beyond even the sturdiest of iOS devices. It would also have to be competitive within the current market—not impossible, but certainly a tough ask.

Apple would also have to convince a sizeable chunk of the media industry to radically change its thinking. At present, television and movie studios are clinging to the wreckage of the 1990s, still for the most part believing in keeping media expensive and relatively inaccessible. Digital TV shows are priced on iTunes in excess of the RRP of DVDs and Blu-ray, to keep you buying shiny discs, and region-blocks of all kinds mess with worldwide commercial access to shows, despite the same shows being available as torrents mere minutes after broadcast.

Having mulled this thinking over on Twitter today, I’ve had responses along the lines of “but what about the music industry?” It’s true that Apple was disruptive there, and was also largely responsible for the current DRM-free and affordable model for individual tracks and entire albums. But whether the lesson the TV/movie industry’s learned is more along the lines of “and there’s no way that’ll happen to us” rather than being inspired will be key to any hope Apple has of making it in the world of television.

The Apple TV unit and iTunes have already shown that Apple’s clout—even while Steve Jobs was involved—isn’t always enough. TV shows remain expensive. Movies are regularly removed from rental, so users can be ‘forced’ to buy them, and then they’re plonked back once the studios realise there’s a sequel on the way. There’s no consistency to this, nor in availability worldwide. The USA’s rental and purchase selection is massively superior to the UK’s, and yet plenty of UK shows aren’t available in the US. And then there’s the TV-show rental debacle, where Apple only managed to get Fox, the BBC and Disney-related properties on board—and even then, many hit shows were absent.

But there’s still plenty of potential in the Apple TV. Drop pricing and up the range of shows and it moves from being quite a nice device to a must-have. (If you’ve a networked PC or Mac and AirVideo, it’s a suitable unit for watching shows in any format, too, rather than just those sitting in iTunes.) And so if Apple can fix these things, perhaps an Apple-branded television could also have a shot in the market.