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Apple has tried to revolutionise TV for a decade - without success

James Titcomb
Steve Jobs launches the 2007 Apple TV - Getty

On Monday, Apple is set to make a major push into internet video, launching a TV streaming service that will seek to compete in a crowded market against Netflix and Amazon.

The service is set to include the fruits of a billion-dollar investment in original content, as well as bundles from other providers including HBO.

But while the launch will be Apple’s biggest entry into media since the launch of the iTunes Store in 2003, it has not been without its setbacks and U-turns.

The company’s recent efforts to revolutionise television goes back more than a decade - or earlier if you count the short-lived Macintosh TV of the mid-Nineties - and have shifted shape on multiple occasions.

2006: iTV

After Apple released the video iPod in 2005 and started selling TV shows on iTunes, the company decided users needed a way to watch them on the living room screen.

It unveiled what it called “iTV”, a set-top box that could load iTunes movies from a computer, in 2006, although after a dispute with the British TV network of the same name, released it as “Apple TV” in 2007.

The device received several upgrades but for much of its early life was something of a hobby, and coming in the same year that the iPhone did, did not receive the attention it could have.

The 2015 iteration of an Apple TV set top box Credit: AP

2011: Steve Jobs says ‘I finally cracked it’

Steve Jobs tells his biographer Walter Isaacson shortly that he has finalised an idea for an “integrated television set”.

"I’d like to create an integrated television set that is completely easy to use… It will have the simplest user interface you could imagine. I finally cracked it," Jobs said.

This set off years of speculation that an Apple-branded television was coming, with analysts predicting such a product would hit the shelves imminently.

However, we will never know what became of such a project, if one existed. Apple has given no signs it plans to launch its own set at any point. During this period, Jobs’ successor Tim Cook continues to hint that Apple has big plans in video.

2015: Apple TV’s subdued comeback

As smart TVs and streaming services take over the world, Apple releases a new generation of its Apple TV device with support for games and other apps, attempting to replicate the model that has worked so well for the iPhone.

However, the release is marred by months of reports that the company had tried and failed to secure its true goal: a deal with broadcasters that would see its TV box become a hub for live TV and popular channels.

The new Apple TV device is seen as an improvement, but hardly the industry game changer that some had hoped (or expected) from Apple.

2017: The experimental phase

Apple chief Tim Cook with James Corden and musician Pharrell during a comedy sketch for an Apple media event

Apple dips its toes in original content, securing the rights to James Corden’s Carpool Karaoke and Planet of the Apps, a Dragon’s Den-style reality TV show starring Will.I.Am and Gwyneth Paltrow.

Both are broadcast on Apple Music, the music streaming service the company had launched two weeks earlier. But neither are seen as breakout hits and their positioning inside the Music app is confusing.

Planet of the Apps is cancelled after one season, although Carpool Karaoke has been renewed. A separate drama produced by Dr Dre is pulled, reportedly amid fears it will tarnish Apple’s brand.

In the same year, Apple releases a “TV” app designed to unify several different services in place.

2019: Apple finally cracks it?

Eight years after Jobs’ claim to have cracked television, Apple’s big push looks very different to the idea he envisaged. Apple is not making its own TV set, and it’s unclear whether users of its new service will even need an Apple device.

Tim Cook will unveil the company's latest TV attempt Credit: Bloomberg

With a budget of more than $1bn to develop its own shows, Apple is expected to unveil its own video streaming service on Monday. Crucially, though, that is not all. The company is also planning to sell subscriptions to other services, with everything appearing together in a new TV app.

However, the launch comes in an increasingly competitive TV market, and several big streaming companies such as Netflix are refusing to be part of Apple’s big plan. It remains to be seen whether the new service is the revolution it has been seeking for years, or another false start.