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The Apple TV began as a set-top box.
The Apple TV began as a set-top box.

Steve Jobs' last wish to play on iTV

Apple is set to release a full-blown TV set next year that will stream shows wirelessly and, in the future, could be controlled by voice commands or even movements.

Dedicated couch potatoes can already watch sport in 3-D and YouTube videos on their TVs, but Apple is now working on its own full-blown television set that may one day be controlled by voice or even movement.

The electronics maker behind the iPhone and iPad has been in talks this month with media executives about a television set capable of wirelessly streaming shows and movies, according to reports. Component makers in Asia now say they will start preparing materials for a so-called Apple iTV in the first quarter of next year. The sets would be released by the end of the year and span 32 and 37 inches in size, DigiTimes reported this week.

"This will definitely be exciting as there is a lot of room to change the way we use our TV and the whole experience," says Ashish Panjabi, the chief operating officer of Jacky's Group of Companies, which oversees the local chain of electronics shops.

"Could we be seeing the end of all those wires that we connect into our televisions" or the beginning of "voice-controlled televisions?"

TV manufacturers have been be making strides in that direction.

Last week, LG announced a "magic remote" that lets viewers use their voice to enter text while accessing more than 1,000 apps on certain TVs. Another gesture feature lets people control models that display 3-D images "with simple arm or wrist movements", LG says.

Before Steve Jobs, the co-founder of Apple, passed away, he told Walter Isaacson, his biographer, that he had "cracked" the secret for an easy-to-use TV set with "the simplest user interface you could imagine".

Apple's move today towards making this a reality may seem like a rerun of an old episode from the company's history. Back in 2007, Jobs announced a set-top box called Apple TV, although it linked televisions only to content from Apple's iTunes store and was widely considered a failure compared with the successes of other products.

At the time, Jobs likened it to "a DVD player for the 21st century".

Since then, established players in the TV manufacturing business such as Samsung have concocted all sorts of innovations to spur television sales, including sets that display 3-D images and stream videos from the internet. Hitachi even displayed a prototype with which viewers could control a TV's volume and channels with the wiggle of a finger or a wave of their hand. But not all of these innovations make it to stores, and when they do, blockbuster sales are far from guaranteed.

Google TV launched last year to connect televisions with music, apps, shows and movies from the internet. Yet it has failed to garner the kind of traction some within the industry had expected.

Last month, Guerrino De Luca, the chief executive of Logitech, acknowledged that its bet on a set-top box linked to Google TV was "a mistake of implementation of a gigantic nature". After suffering a loss ofabout US$100 million (Dh367.3m) on the venture, Logitech says it will not be coming out with a new model next year.

Still, other companies are expected to release new technologies pegged to Google TV, with many likely to be displayed at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas next month.

"Google has tried getting involved with TVs with limited success thus far, but 2012 will need to see Google and Samsung find a way of cracking their way forward or else they risk Apple taking over this industry as well," Mr Panjabi says.

nparmar@thenational.ae

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