RIP Steve Jobs, Apple genius who changed TV as much as computing
When former Apple CEO Steve Jobs died Wednesday at age 56, tributes exploded across Twitter, Facebook, smartphones everywhere and across the Internet -- an immediate recognition of the genius behind an innovator who did more than any other to put the "personal" into personal computing.
Even the President of United States weighed in, with an immediacy made possible by the devices Jobs innovated. Jobs was “among the greatest of American innovators,” said President Obama in a statement posted on the White House blog. “There may be no greater tribute to Steve’s success than the fact that much of the world learned of his passing on a device he invented.”
But even as scores of appreciations noted his success with the Macintosh personal computer, the iPhone smartphone, the iPod personal media player, the iTunes online media store and the iPad tablet computer, there is another space of American life he also changed with a flick of his imagination.
The television set.
Jobs first shot at transforming TV was striking a deal to add TV shows to iTunes, Apple's massive online media store. For years, television executives knew that there wares would wind up online; only Jobs could come along with the pop culture cool and consumer demand to pry episodes of popular series out of executives' hands and onto digital devices.
Suddenly, fans had a new way to take their favorite TV shows with them, first on laptop computers, then on iPhones and video iPods. The industry had a new way to gauge the popularity of shows -- by how much they sold -- and the fantasy of taking your favorite television shows anywhere you go was suddenly a reality.
Affiliates feared no one would watch their channels and networks wondered about putting shows on a platform where they would earn less money. But what they discovered was that online TV creates an ecology of buzz for shows; the stuff that's popular online gets watched more on additional outlets, too. And in a media world where consumers have more and more control, you can't ignore something convenient as making popular shows available online.
Next, came another device which further united TV and the power of home computing: Apple TV.
Forget the clunky original version, priced at nearly $300 and of limited use. Focus instead on the revamped version Apple issued just last year. Priced at $99, it's a sleek, efficient way to grab video content from your Apple home computer, iTunes or online video services such as Netflix and Amazon On Demand to play on your HD-ready television.
For some time, industry watchers have been wondering about the "killer app" which might unite the passive experience of TV with the active experience of using the home computer. Apple managed to get close, providing a cheap and cool-looking way to browse the content on your home computer and several of the most popular online video streaming sites.
So even as computer nerds mourn the loss of one of their gods, TV geeks have a bit to grieve over as well.
Turns out, the guy who understood how best to bring the computer into our personal lives knew a little bit about making TV technology cool, too.