Carl Icahn, Gene Munster and the myth of the Apple TV set

Pity Gene Munster.

Piper Jaffray’s senior Apple analyst first reported that the company was working on a television set — as opposed to the Apple TV set-top box — in 2009. He’s been talking about it ever since, peppering Tim Cook with questions, sending notes to clients, predicting launch dates that kept slipping: 2011, 2012,… 2016.

Someone at Apple could have done him a favor. They could have found a way to let him know that the project had been shelved more than a year ago.

That didn’t come out until Monday, after billionaire investor Carl Icahn, who owns 52.7 million shares of Apple and has the ear of Tim Cook, wrote an open letter to the CEO confidently predicting that Apple would not only ship two sizes of ultra high definition TV sets next year, but that it would sell 10 million units.

The next day, citing “people familiar with the matter” the Wall Street Journal published Behind Apple’s Move to Shelve TV Plans.

Munster finally got the message, and early Tuesday he issued what we can only hope is his last note on the matter. “Given how adamant we have been about the reality of an Apple television,” he begins, “it’s hard to accept the reality of no Apple television.”

And then he did something Apple analysts rarely do: He admitted he was wrong.

Where Did We Go Wrong? We have been talking about an Apple television for the better part of the last decade. While it is a small consolation that the article affirms that Apple was actually working on a television during that period, in the end we were wrong in our constant expectation of the product.

He could have stopped there. Instead, we got this:

We believe that Apple is actively working on early virtual and augmented reality products, although we may be 5+ years away from seeing these products launched.

Uh oh.

Follow Philip Elmer-DeWitt on Twitter at @philiped. Read his Apple (AAPL) coverage at or subscribe via his RSS feed.

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