More evidence Apple is gearing up to launch its new Apple TV smart TV. It has contacted at least one major Asian supplier about purchasing television display components, according to Piper Jaffray’s Gene Munster. He told investors 1/31 that he had recently spoken to a “major TV component supplier” about Apple’s rumored plans to release a connected HDTV. Sources within the supplier reportedly told him that Apple had contacted “regarding various capabilities of their television display components.”
Munster said he viewed the news as “continued evidence that Apple is exploring production of a television.” Prior evidence that the analyst claims to have gathered surrounding an Apple television includes January 2011 meetings in Asia that suggested Apple was investing in manufacturing facilities for LCD displays as large as 50 inches and a September 2011 meeting with a “contact close to an Asian supplier” who claimed prototypes of an Apple set are in the works.
The firm believes Apple could be ready to release a television as early as late 2012, however, various reports have suggested that Apple has run up against resistance from movie and TV studios that are believed to be hesitant to license their content for an Apple television.
The analyst went on to speculate on several possibilities that Apple could make use of to address the content issue. For instance, Apple could simply enable the television to manage pre-existing live TV service from a unified interface, or it could make use of network programming and web-based video services such as Netflix and Hulu. Finally, Munster suggested that Apple could look to offer monthly subscriptions “on an a-la-carte basis” for live TV packages from content providers, but he noted that this is likely the “most challenging scenario” because of existing licensing arrangements.
Piper Jaffray projects that Apple could sell 1.4 million of the 106 million internet-connected televisions estimated to be sold this year. The investment bank tentatively estimates that revenues from the device could reach $2.5 billion in 2012, $4.0 billion in 2013 and $6.0 billion in 2014.
A number of patent applications discovered by AppleInsider for technologies such as advanced backlighting and a simplified universal remote also indicate that Apple is, at the least, investigating the possibility of a full-fledged television set.
Before his passing in October, Jobs envisioned building a TV that would be controlled by Apple’s mobile devices to be easier to use and be more personalized. According to a WSJ story, Apple TV will rely on wireless streaming technology to access shows, movies and other content. In at least one meeting, Apple described future television technology that would respond to users’ voices and movements, a WSJ source said. Such technology, of course, would allow users to use their voices to search for a show or change channels.
Some specifics in its talks with media companies included new ways they could stream media companies’ content, allowing a user to watch a video on a TV set, then pick up another device, such as a smartphone, and keep watching the video on the move.
The TV device Apple is working on would use a version of Apple’s wireless-streaming technology AirPlay to allow users to control it from iPhones and iPads. Whether it would receive traditional broadcast or cable signals remains unclear, said the WSJ sources. The technology could allow users to stream video from mobile devices to their TVs, without a set-top box. That process is already possible through its Apple TV set-top box, but it is cumbersome and some media companies, such as Time Warner’s HBO, prevent their apps from using the technology because they want closer control of how and where their content appears. A big concern is piracy of content.
RBR-TVBR observation: As Munster noted, Apple only enters mature markets in order to reinvent them. As such, he does not see Apple entering the TV market without a “revamped TV content solution.” If it can incorporate voice commands for content and shows, it would represent a big leg up. However, licensing issues and interfacing with cable networks and online content partners to populate Apple TV may be the biggest hurdle. Solving those issues was one place where Steve Jobs really shined.