I heard several interesting things about Steve Jobs and some intriguing Apple TV rumors. One of the rumors made me think that Tim Cook’s new Mac — the one that is going to be made in the U.S.A. — might actually be a big-screen Apple TV.
Here’s what I heard:
- The software was developed at the behest of Steve Jobs himself, who persuaded FuzeBox to make the software not just for the Mac, but for an upcoming Apple TV.
- Steve Jobs gave the company a special dev lab on Apple’s campus.
- According to FuzeBox’s CEO, the upcoming Apple TV has a 60-inch screen. It has no inputs whatsoever, except an AC power cord. No wires. You can’t plug in a cable box or a game console. Nothing.
- It does have Gigabit wireless Wi-Fi and gesture controls, equivalent to Microsoft’s Kinect accessory for the Xbox.
- And finally, the story of how FuzeBox got an ultra rare meeting with Steve Jobs is worth telling — details below.
Now, I’m the first to admit that not all of this adds up. I got it from Jeff Cavins, FuzeBox’s CEO, who told a good tale, especially after I’d had a couple of pints. While I was fascinated and entertained, it didn’t get to pin him down on details. The party was loud and crowded, and we were constantly interrupted. So mostly for entertainment purposes, this is what he said:
FuzeBox’s software allows coworkers to conduct meetings remotely and collaborate via high-definition video, even over cellphone connections. Unlike competing products, the platform is cloud-based, which eliminates a lot of perfomance bottlenecks. I got an impressive demo.
The videoconferencing software was developed primarily for mobile — iPads, iPhones and Android devices. There was version that ran on desktop Macs and PCs, but it was Flash-based.
In 2010, FuzeBox’s Head of Sales, Brook West, sent an email to Steve Jobs requesting a meeting to show him the platform. Jobs replied 15 minutes later with a curt one-liner — he doesn’t do meetings.
West replied that he should make an exception because this was the software that would get the iPad and iPhones into enterprise, a vastly lucrative market. Again, Jobs replied immediately that he wasn’t interested in enterprise; he was interested in consumers. West fired back that this is was a big mistake. Enterprise is nothing but 10,000 consumers who all work at the same place. If Apple can get just one of those consumers — the CEO — they have the whole company. Jobs conceded and invited FuzeBox for an ultra-rare personal pitch meeting at Apple’s campus.
According to Cavins, Jobs became an avid user of the software during the last few months of his life. He used it to interact with his team at Apple when he was too sick to go into work. (I didn’t get a chance to ask why he didn’t use Apple’s own FaceTime. Presumably it was because FaceTime is designed primarily for one-to-one conversations, where Fuze can handle up to 100 participants.) Jobs was so impressed with the software, he urged FuzeBox to make a native Mac version instead of using Flash. As we all know, Apple has been moving away from Flash for some time. But Cavins was skeptical. Why invest resources in the Mac? While the Mac is healthy and growing, it is still a niche platform. Without spelling out all the details, Jobs said they should do it for a future Mac-based product, an upcoming Apple TV.
Cavins said he never saw any hardware, and Jobs and his team didn’t provided scant details. However, according to Cavins, the Apple TV will have a 60-inch screen. It has no inputs or outputs whatsoever except a power cord. It has only Gigabit Wi-Fi. Cavins said there are filings with the FCC referencing a Gigabit wireless device (we’re checking on this). Apple was tipped to offer 802.11ac Gigabit Wi-Fi devices this year (like a new Airport Extreme basestation) but hasn’t yet done so. The new 802.11ac standard promises three times the speed of the current 802.11 Wi-Fi, and is just starting to roll out. Several manufacturers already offer routers. It is expected to be widespread by early 2013
Cavins said the upcoming Apple TV is gesture-controlled, like the Kinect. It can also be controlled by the iPad, like the current, hockey-puck Apple TV. Apple does have patents for gesture controls, including a sci-fi 3D holographic system (see the image above). Here’s a mockup video showing how the a similar virtual keyboard might work on the iPhone:
Cavins’s account clashes slightly with previous reports. Last year, we reported that a source had seen a prototype flat-screen AppleTV that was controlled by Siri, Apple’s voice-activated personal assistmant, not Kinect-like gestures. Of course, it may be controlled by both gestures and voice. (And maybe even a remote control. Minimal, of course.)
Cavins also mentioned that there may be a large, touchscreen iMac coming for the workplace. This iMac would feature a multitouch screen instead of gestures. However, we were interrupted before I could question him more about this. But this morning, it was the first thing I thought of when Tim Cook said Mac manufacturing would be coming back to the U.S. After all, most TVs sold in the U.S. are assembled in Mexico, largely to save on shipping costs. It’s cheaper to assemble big, flatscreen TVs just across the border than ship them from China. Perhaps this is why Cook has said one of the Mac lines will be made domestically?
John Brownlee’s Note: I’m super skeptical of all of this, so Leander invited me to say a few words at the end of his piece to outline why. You can find my rebuttal to this rumor on the next page.