Wall Street’s biggest believer in an Apple TV set is losing his faith

April 3, 2014, 6:55 AM UTC
Fortune
Munster in 2012: Apple’s television “will be the biggest thing since the smartphone.”

FORTUNE — Pity Gene Munster.

It’s been five years since Piper Jaffray’s chief Apple (AAPL) watcher first alerted investors that Steve Jobs’ “hobby” — the Apple TV set-top box that launched in 2007 — was merely a precursor to a more ambitious project: a full-blown Apple television set.

“While Apple downplays the possibility,” he wrote in a February 2008 note to clients, “we expect the company to design a connected television over the next two years (launching in 2011).”

When 2011 came and went without a TV set from Apple, Munster didn’t lose faith. He simply pushed the expected launch date forward a year. He did it again in 2012. And again in 2013.

But the arrival Tuesday of Amazon’s (AAPL) Fire TV seems to have shaken his confidence. Looking at what Roku and Amazon’s set-top boxes offer viewers, it seems to Munster that Apple has been overtaken by the competition:

Fire TV: 41 content partners and 133 games
Apple TV: 31 content partners and 0 games
Roku: over 1,300 content partners (channels) and 77 games

“We still view a launch of an Apple Television in 2014 as likely,” he wrote Tuesday, “but note that each month that passes without credible feedback from the supply chain reduces our confidence.”

“The reason we still see a TV as likely,” he continues, “is based on several factors including comments from the company around multiple new product categories in 2014 and media reports about Apple working closer with the cable companies to offer a more immersive TV experience. Investors now generally believe that any announcements around the TV in 2014 will be related to an updated Apple TV, and that Apple will not launch an actual TV in 2014. Investor skepticism is based on lack of feedback from component suppliers around build plans for a TV. In our opinion, it’s still premature to rule a TV out this year, as we still have until this summer to start to hear more feedback from component suppliers to make a stronger call on the exact timing of the TV. We note that WWDC is scheduled to start June 10 this year; thus it could mark the next most likely time for an updated Apple TV box with a full television announcement later in the year.”