The Apple iTV rumors are heating up, and it's likely they will swirl until Apple formally confirms or denies the talk of getting into the traditional television business. But analysts remain skeptical that Apple can compete against the likes of Samsung, Sony and Panasonic.
New York Times' blogger Nick Bilton added fuel to the Apple television fire that Steve Jobs' biographer Walter Isaacson started this week with a post that explores "what's really next for Apple in television."
Bilton contends that although Jobs was referring to Apple's plans to build a full-fledged television when he said, "I've finally cracked it," he was not referring to a TV set. Rather, Bilton contends, he was talking about Siri, the voice commanded virtual assistant that comes pre-installed on the iPhone 4S.
The iPad Argument
Still, Bilton goes on to predict that Apple will produce a television. He also points to a Barclays report that predicts Apple could generate $19 billion in revenue in a single year if it developed a television set -- and that's without content deals in place. But Colin Dixon, a senior IPTV analyst at The Diffusion Group, remains the skeptic.
"The renewal cycle for TVs is vastly different to hand-held electronics," Dixon said. "I replace my cellphone every year or two. I don't replace my TV for eight years. TVs are typically quite large, have pride of place in the living room, and sometimes are quite logistically difficult to replace and dispose of."
Dixon also believes Apple could make great strides on the TV front without actually manufacturing one of its own. For example, he explained, Apple could use its Siri technology to allow consumers to search television shows just as easily through an iPad. In fact, he said, it would probably be easier to integrate Siri that way because the microphone would be located much closer to the person actually speaking.
What's at Stake?
"Apple already has the Apple TV set top box. If I was Apple I would be focused on making Apple TV a more compelling experience for consumers rather than thinking about doing a TV," Dixon said. "For a 50-inch you still end up with a box that's over $1,000 without anything fancy. So it's such a large investment from consumers and there's not a lot of margin."
Based on Apple's historical approach to pricing products at a premium, Dixon estimated customers could pay as much as $2,000 or $2,200 for an Apple-branded TV. Still, he said Apple may have decided that a television is strategically important and could even sell it as a low-margin product.
"This is a challenging but really important area. Looking forward there is lots of opportunity," Dixon said. "I suppose this might be why Apple is perhaps looking at a television seriously. What we are really doing is defining what it means to provide entertainment in the 21st Century. The truth is, that's really an IP and Internet thing going forward."