Tim Cook's vague references to Apple's iTV plan on Tuesday night sounded less like "coy" admissions about a much rumored plan to take over the living room, and more like the exact same company line we've been hearing for years about Apple TV 2.0, which have resulted in everything but the television of the future. In a public conversation full of partial teases that got the fanboys pretty excited, the Apple CEO mentioned "a very grand vision" for TV, without, of course, detailing any further plans to execute on said "very grand vision." Instead, Cook deflected the question with a familiar talking point: "It continues to be an area of great interest to us," he told Kara Swisher and Walt Mossberg at the AllThingsD D11 conference. In his less than two years at the helm of Apple, Cook has uttered some version of that non-denial denial on the company's TV future at least three times:
- January 2013: "I have said in the past this is an area of intense interest for us, and it remains that."
- May 2012: "This is an area of intense interest for us," Cook said of the TV service. "We are going to keep pulling the string and see where this takes us."
- January 2012: "It's an area of intense interest. I can't say more than that."
Sure, what was said to be the project Steve Jobs never got to could be under secret development for a fall release after all, but in that span of Cook's public pronouncements, we've seen little public progress on a potential TV product that suddenly has lots of legit competition. The last alleged Apple TV innovation involved getting HBO Go to work on its proprietary box, which a lot of similar boxes have been doing for awhile. But even HBO has been hedging about its streaming future, despite the continued disruptive success and Internet dominance of Netflix, and true TV box innovations are giving way to, you know, the new Xbox. And the morning after Cook's latest same-old hint, even the Apple rumor mill hasn't churned out much new chatter. Those revolutionary talks with cable companies that could change the way we buy and watch television aren't going so well, at least as of last September. And that's what really matters in the future of television landscape: Without content deals that see cable providers give in to a new business model and content providers getting what they want in the Apple-centric iTunes economy, Apple has reportedly been testing some designs with other companies, which even the rumormongers can't manage to get excited about.
Secrecy is Apple's trademark PR strategy, so obviously Cook would never divulge any more details about a secret TV project if the company were moving quickly in that direction. That Cook went with a familiar turn of phrase suggests things may not be moving along so quickly at all. So forgive us for not getting excited — and wake us up whenever Tim Cook moves out of the "area of great interest" phase to the "actual idea" phase. Then we can get excited about the future again.