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Thoughts on an Apple-Branded Television Set

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This is another of those Apple rumors that won’t die. Just as the fullscreen video playing iPod of the mid-2000s, and the Beatles rumors since the iTunes store opened*, there is constant rumors that Apple is making a television set. I doubt this, and here’s why.

First and foremost, since Apple is a company that exists to make money and is lead by capitalists, they look for a juicy target. Mobile phones are a juicy target. Television sets, not so much. The profit margin for each unit sold, as the market currently stands, is razor thin. Apple doesn’t go for volume at first. Instead, the company enters a market as a premium maker, once it catches on, then it lowers the price to gain market share. Look no further than the iPhone.

Secondly, if that’s where Apple believed the money was that’s the way they would have gone about entering the market in the first place. That is, instead of introducing a set top box called the Apple TV.

Thirdly, and perhaps I’m being too short sighted, but what could Apple bring to the television market that isn’t already been done, and specifically, done by Apple themselves with the Apple TV? Little to nothing, I say. It’s been shown that people don’t like to turn their TV into a computer (GoogleTV anyone?) and people already have DVRs and Tivo-like devices. The only thing left, is essentially what Apple is already doing- content delivery.

Plus, Apple had the good sense to team up with Netflix, a company that offers a much greater variety of content that Apple itself does, to help power a device like Apple TV. If Apple hadn’t done that, I still think the company would be struggling in the market.

None of this is suggesting that Apple couldn’t do it, but rather that they won’t do it. Apple has always made beautiful displays, although in recent years they’ve taken steps to get out of that market, simply because there’s no money in it. Low-end makers such as Dell, Sony, and the like, have eaten up the market and reduced it to a market share game. Something that Apple doesn’t play well in, unless they’re the first toe in the water.

So, no, I don’t expect an Apple-branded television set anywhere in the near future, and likely never at all. There’s no money in it, and it’s frankly a boring market. Two things that Apple tends to shy away from. It’s the same reason they don’t sell speakers (although they did try the iPod Hi-Fi), projectors, digital cameras, and yes, TVs.

*Both of which rumors did come true, long after their shelf life had expired.

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  • Jhrogersii

    I still think Apple might go this route, but only out of necessity. We’ve heard Steve Jobs lament the situation with cable and satellite provider space keeping the TV experience locked down. This is why the Apple TV is a “hobby.” I know Google has failed miserably with this approach so far, but maybe getting one step closer to the content by taking the extra device out of the equation, and getting straight to the screen itself is the answer.

    The other issue in play here is gaming. If Apple intends to make a move toward the console/big screen gaming space, they will have to go through something to get there. It will have to be either the Apple TV, an Apple branded HD set, or through AirPlay licensed to TV manufacturers. While AirPlay probably makes the most sense, Apple doesn’t always play so well with others, so I have some doubts on whether they will go this route. Apple TV is nice, but it just isn’t that compelling a device as it stands right now. If Apple is really looking to getma stranglehold on the digital living room, then the HD set that integrates all of your iTunes content together is the way to go. The fact that their main competitor is already taking this approach might add some extra incentive, as well.

    In the end, I think your analysis of the situation is rock solid Alex. Apple’s past practices would indicate that they would pass on getting involved in the HDTV business. However, I just think there are some extenuating reasons why they might bend their normal operating practices to get a foot into what may be one of the last big frontiers of the connected device space. We’ll probably find out soon, either way. If Apple is getting involved in this market, it will need to be soon, as they will need to head off Google TV, and the many other proprietary Internet services and apps being included in many HDTVs, BlueRay players, and other set top boxes these days. They are already a bit behind the point where they would normally enter and revolutinze a market at this point.