Like many of us who are obsessively tracking the TV/video industry, I took the time to watch Tim Cook’s interview with Kara Swisher and Walt Mossberg yesterday at D11. In particular, the conversation starting at ~10 minutes when Swisher shoots at Cook with “Let’s talk about television…” It’s worth watching, but it leaves me wondering, is Cook’s reticence accidentally setting expectations for Apple TV way too high?

Cook’s response to Swisher, as has been Apple’s canned response for a long time, was that it’s still a hobby, his exact line being “We’re still playing in TV through Apple TV.” But he then goes on to illustrate all the demand (+13M devices sold - almost half in the last year), as well as everything Apple has learned from the Apple TV as an MVP, and finally says “There are lots of things about the TV experience that can be better… we answered some of those, clearly not all of those, and we’re going to continue to make that better.”

From that, and all the other rumors, we know Apple’s going to do more than just “play” in this space. They’re going to come in guns blazing, aimed at full disruption… 

…But what does that actually look like? 

In the preamble to this discussion, Cook says “We have some incredible plans… we have incredible ideas…” but when Swisher and Mossberg press him on what. those. ideas. are… he just stonewalls with “I don’t want to go into detail…”

Point is, Steve Jobs had a charisma and story around him that made you think “oh man… whatever Jobs delivers is going to be great.” Cook, on the other hand, doesn’t have that same natural gift (and it’s honestly ridiculous for Apple fans to expect it), but by dodging questions the way he does, I really fear that he’s setting expectations too high for himself, and for the future iTV. 

The most he said was that the TV experience hasn’t been brought up to speed with this decade, which is mostly true as far as selecting channels/programming guides etc., but that’s really not enough. The market demands a serious wow-factor in this next product. Xbox One is going after fancy features, but like I’ve said, the real win is a robust developer ecosystem.

If anything, Cook needs to start planting the seeds of a real vision for the eventual iTV… Hell, he doesn’t even need to plant them, he just needs to let the world know that he has the vision! Cable subscriptions disrupted! Digital hearth of the modern home! Whatever it is… tease it out a bit like Jobs used to. Who cares if it’s misleading? Just get an idea out there, otherwise the rumor mill will keep churning out expectations and hype-fatigue that Apple can’t meet.