Apple television set for 2012/2013?
VentureBeat boldly restarts the Apple television set rumors this weekend, saying it's "almost certainly" being prepared for 2012 or 2013 according to "multiple sources in Silicon Valley". They backup the claim by citing numerous analysts, many of whom have records so hit and miss with Apple predictions that magic 8-balls could give them a run for their money, as well as a few opaque quotes from the WSJ and sites with equally hit or miss records.
An Apple-based television makes sense in light of Apple’s continued expansion out of the computer industry into the larger consumer electronics market.
But here's the thing -- Apple isn't expanding into the larger consumer electronics market at all. They're slowly, step by step, adding very specific products that leverage existing technologies like iOS, can be put together with lower component costs than the industry average, will sell for higher margins than the rest of the industry, and offer better customer experiences than any of the competition.
Television sets are currently a cut-throat, low margin business. Sure, like computers, there a high-end premium market Apple could aim for, and like the smartphone market, existing suppliers have been battling it out on specs, leaving their flanks wide open for disruption on the experience side -- but is it a market where Apple could sell hundreds of millions of iOS devices?
They're trying with Apple TV, priced at only $99, and it's remained a "hobby". Certainly adding a secondary box (after the cable box) is nowhere near as elegant a solution as having iOS built into the TV itself, but it's also one that doesn't require consumers to buy a whole new television set.
The last time there were strong rumors about an Apple television set, TiPb heard it was really a 27-inch iMac. Now we have a 27-inch iMac and still no television set. We haven't heard anything about Apple working on a 32-inch iMac (or cinema display) to justify these new rumors, but we have been around long enough to know Apple won't release anything that doesn't grow their business.
That's not to say Apple isn't working it. They're likely working on dozens of new devices, many of which they'll say their famous "no" to and will never see the light of day. There were rumors and denials about phones for years before the iPhone, and rumors about the iPad immediately thereafter. From media to consumer, we always want to know what'll be the next big thing from Apple. But what could and Apple television bring to the table, both for Apple and consumers, that Apple TV doesn't already?
Don't get me wrong, based on design and build quality alone, I'd love an Apple television, especially if Apple could figure out how, like iPad, to deliver great technology at a great price. I'd love how AirPlay and other iOS features would "just work" with my existing iPhone, Mac and other devices. But it would have to somehow disintermediate the cable and media companies the way iPhone disintermediated the carriers, or the way iPad sidestepped them completely. And as Steve Jobs said at the All Things D conference, that's an even trickier bunch of nuts to crack.
It by no means "makes sense" right now, and Apple won't ramp it up until it does, and won't mention it until Tim Cook or another executive takes stage.