Steve Jobs predicted the new Apple TV's challenges 5 years ago

New Apple TV Steve Jobs
Steve Jobs holds the Apple TV 2 in 2010

All of a sudden, we shouldn't expect a new Apple TV from next week's Worldwide Developer Conference, and it's not surprising.

Steve Jobs, five years ago, expressed his frustration with the television industry, long before the set-top box and its rumored companion streaming service were reportedly delayed.

"It's not a problem with the technology, it's not a problem of vision, it's a fundamental go to market problem," said the late Jobs during the AllThingsD conference in 2010.

Sure enough, it appears as if dealmaking, not chip making, is at the crux of the overhauled Apple TV delay.

All signs point to television content producers playing hardball with Apple's subscription-based TV streaming service. Time Warner is said to have deliberately stalled talks for years.

Trying to piece together local content

Another problem Jobs foresaw in 2010 was reported this week: the difficulty in trying to piece together local channels, a rumored feature of Apple TV's streaming service.

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"There isn't a cable operator that's national. There's a bunch of cable operators," remarked a frustrated Jobs.

Feeding live, local channels is expected to be part of Apple TV's new streaming strategy now, and it sounds like it was back then, too. But difficulties were ever-present and global. Bringing the set-top box to the UK and Australia isn't as easy as making a phone, as Jobs noted.

"It's not like there's a GSM standard where you build a phone for the US and it also works in all of these other countries," he said in 2010. "No, every single country has different standards and different government approvals. It's very balkanized."

Tearing up the set-top box

Apple has demonstrated that it wants to streamline the television viewing experience, but it was always hamstrung by Hollywood and cable operators.

"The television industry fundamentally has a subsidized business model that gives everyone a set-top box, and that pretty much undermines innovation in the sector," remarked Jobs.

He started to rattle off names: "Ask TiVo, ask Roku, ask us, ask Google in a few months."

"The only way this is going to change is if you start from scratch, tear up the box, redesign and get it to the consumer in a way that they want to buy it," said Jobs. "But right now, there's no way to do that."

That may change in the not-too-distant future, just not likely at WWDC 2015. Jobs ended with, "I'm sure smarter people than us will figure this out, but that's why we say Apple TV is a hobby."

Current Apple CEO Tim Cook may be that person and the new Apple TV may displace traditional cable with subscription-based packages, finally fulfilling this unsettled vision.

Matt Swider