The hardware is the easy part. The trick is to get Hollywood on board
“Apple enters markets to reinvent them,” wrote Piper Jaffray’s Gene Munster in a note to clients Tuesday reiterating his oft-repeated conviction that Apple’s (AAPL) next big thing is an Apple-branded television set.
To be sure, Munster has scaled back his expectations since he predicted that the company would sell 6.6 million Apple TV set-top boxes in 2009 and launch a full-blown TV set in 2011. By fiscal 2011, Apple was still selling fewer than 3 million Apple TVs a year, and calendar 2011 came and went without the television set whose drum Munster has been beating for nearly four years.
The new data point in his Tuesday note is a conversation Munster had last month with a “major TV component supplier” who said it had been contacted by Apple “regarding various capabilities of their television display components.” Putting this together with reports last year that Apple was investing heavily in manufacturing facilities to build 50-inch LCD screens and that prototypes of an Apple television were in the works, Munster remains confident that Apple is poised to enter the so-called connected TV market, targeting a late 2012 launch.
But the timing, he concedes, “remains uncertain.”
What might a revamped TV content solution look like? Munster offers three scenarios: (I quote)
Our take? Anybody can build a TV set, although Apple may have bought itself access to better screen technologies. Fixing TV’s broken user interface is right in Apple’s wheel house. Apple’s iCloud and iTunes store might give it an edge, but TV viewers so far haven’t seemed terribly eager to buy TV shows a la carte. The biggest unknown is whether Tim Cook or Eddy Cue can talk Hollywood into signing the kind of content deals Steve Jobs was never, in his lifetime, able to get.