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Apple has its sights set on conquering a new market

DailyTech earlier this year offered information from a definitive source which indicated that Apple Inc. (AAPL) was eyeing a move into the LCD television business.  At the time we had talked to an ex-Apple executive who had boasted of the potential of the device.  They pointed to a late 2011 launch, but added that a 2012 launch could be in order given (in so many words) Apple's desire to make things sleek and "perfect".

Well a 2011 launch clearly isn't in the cards, but several sources including Bloomberg and    Piper Jaffray Cos. analyst Gene Munster, have confirmed our source's statements and indicated the LCD TV is still in Apple's product pipeline.

Clues to the pending launch can be found in Walter Isaacson's biography of late Apple CEO and co-founder Steven P. Jobs.  Published by CBS Corp. (CBS), the book recounts an interview in which Mr. Jobs described cracking the problem of how to synchronize content from Apple devices (iPods, Macs, iPhones, iPads) with the TV.  Mr. Jobs stated, "It will have the simplest user interface you could imagine."

Bloomberg adds to the picture, informing that while a source indicates that the TV may never be released, Apple seems to be leaning in that direction, with several sources indicating that iTunes creator Jeff Robbin has been tasked with leading the new TV effort.  Mr. Robbin is an accomplished Apple engineer who helped design the company's hit iPod MP3 player, as well iTunes.

Gene Munster claims that Mr. Robbin's team is cooking up a prototype of the LCD set and could release the set sometime in 2012 or 2013.  He says the release window largely boils down to what kind of LCD unit supply and manufacturing contracts Apple can obtain.  Apple is notorious for driving industry-leading profit margins by ruthless negotiations when it comes to supply and manufacturing contracts.

Apple currently only manufacturers "Apple TV", a settop box that runs a cut down build of iOS and can run iTunes, YouTube, Netflix, and a handful of other services.  The late Mr. Jobs labeled Apple TV "a hobby".  Sales of the device have been low compared to Apple's other product lines.

The new device would reportedly be a full LCD TV unit, with connected entertainment features baked into it.  Presumably driven by iOS, it would wirelessly sync content with other Apple devices, and could even offer rudimentary console gaming, on par with the iPad.

In that regard, Apple will look to follow in the footsteps of Google Inc. (GOOG).  Google has partnered with companies like Sony Corp. (TYO:6758) to release television sets with internet-connected features.  However, the lack of third party apps has stunted the platform and caused a poor reception.  Google has learned from this mistake and is looking to roll out Android 3.1 Honeycomb to sets, adding third party app compatibility.  Apple will likely follow a similar approach, offering "iTV" apps from its App Store. 

The TV project presents both a challenge and an opportunity for Apple, with respect to its smart phone arch-nemesis Samsung Electronics Comp., Ltd. (SEO 005930).  On the one hand, the companies' deterioriating relationship presents a supply problem as Samsung is one of the largest suppliers of large LCD screens.  On the other hand, by releasing its only branded televisions, Apple would strike a blow at one of its rival's core businesses, much as Samsung struck Apple's smartphone business recently surpassing it in sales.

Source: Bloomberg

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RE: In before anti-Apple banter is spewed
By aharris02 on 10/25/2011 6:37:04 PM , Rating: 2
My experiences with Google TV have been underwhelming, but it has been a while since I've looked at it. Has it had major updates in the past two years?

RE: In before anti-Apple banter is spewed
By Reclaimer77 on 10/25/2011 8:22:47 PM , Rating: 2
Major updates, yes.

By Fritzr on 10/25/2011 11:26:08 PM , Rating: 3
Google is not the only IP-TV out there. From the sound of this Apple is planning to do what they did with the iPod, iPhone & iPad and Microsoft did with Windows. Be the first to "Invent" an existing technology and take over the market segment.

That part is easy, the first one to do it right (and in the case of Windows offer compatibility with pre-existing systems) grabs the market share.

The second part is difficult...maintaining that advantage. iOS vs everyone else is working on that part of the problem now. iPod is coasting along, using iOS & brand recognition for now.

Microsoft's release of new editions of Windows is their approach to the problem of making sure the competition doesn't start gaining market share year over year.

If Apple does it right, they have a good chance of making this work. Right now we have component based IPTV where the customer buys the components & assembles the set at home. There are also feature-TVs with built in browsers and limited app support, but no generic OS.

There is a place for an integrated Smart-TV with a full blown OS, app store, TC/IP channels and cable/satellite/broadcast compatibility, that an ordinary person can:
Purchase at Best Buy
Take home
Plug it into the wall
Plug in the cable & internet modem cables
...and be relaxing on the couch after 30 minutes or less of installation & setup time.

Today you need to worry about whether the pieces are compatible. An All-In-One TV set eliminates that question just as the original All-In-One 'sets' replaced the tuner+amplifier+battery+speaker radio set and the radio set+video monitor TVs. (actually the component TVs never made it to market, All-In-One was there from the beginning for the TV set, the component TVs are a modern "improvement")

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