Siri isn't how Jobs cracked the TV nut

Evidence suggests that Jobs had other ideas in minds when he referred to TV saying he had "finally cracked it".

It seems to me that the following passage in Steve Jobs' biography should cast serious doubts as to whether Siri is the idea Jobs had in mind:

At one point Forstall showed off a voice recognition app. As he feared, Jobs grabbed the phone in the middle of the demo and proceeded to see if he could confuse it. “What’s the weather in Palo Alto?” he asked. The app answered. After a few more questions, Jobs challenged it: “Are you a man or a woman?” Amazingly, the app answered in its robotic voice, “They did not assign me a gender.” For a moment the mood lightened.

This is taking place on August 24, 2011. Contrast this with this other passage, that I assume took place some time earlier in 2011:

And he very much wanted to do for television sets what he had done for computers, music players, and phones: make them simple and elegant. “I’d like to create an integrated television set that is completely easy to use,” he told me. “It would be seamlessly synced with all of your devices and with iCloud.” No longer would users have to fiddle with complex remotes for DVD players and cable channels. “It will have the simplest user interface you could imagine. I finally cracked it.”


Simply put, this is completely inconsistent with the idea that Siri would be the aforementioned interface:

  • From this story in Pen Computing Magazine, we learn that ""Jobs doesn't believe in handwriting recognition," observed Steve Capps, Newton's principal designer." This and his reaction to the voice recognition interface seem to indicate that automated recognition of interaction was not Jobs' favored mode of interaction.
  • Earlier in the book, we're introduced to Jobs' focus on shipping real, usable products. Jobs also discussed the TV business at length back in 2010 at the D8 conference, noting the various issues with shipping a TV. He thought about the issue a lot.
  • Given that Jobs doesn't seem to have known much about Siri before his resignation, it seems weird to think that he would consider having "cracked" TV by simply having thought about using voice recognition technology to build a new interface for TVs.

This casts serious doubts on Siri being the answer to Jobs' TV interface woes. I'm leaning much more in favor of John Gruber's theory that the future of TV is apps:

  • An Apple-built TV would run some version of iOS
  • iOS already features many easy-to-use TV apps. Airplay gives a good idea of how an iDevice could be used to easily control a TV
  • The main issue with Airplay is bandwidth and processor performance: sending high-definition video over the air through WiFi and rendering it perfectly on a 1080 display without any latency nor resolution problem
  • However, it would be very easy for the AppleTV to directly access a video stream selected from your device through its own ethernet connexion, using credentials stored on the device
  • This way, users benefit from yearly upgrades in their device while being able to use the TV as a great, longer-lasting content consumption tool

PS: as an aside, this fits with Fred Wilson's theory that cheap will be smart.