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Should Apple enter the flat TV market?

Cupertino's way of doing business may put a stop to any plans ...

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Comment In February 2009, Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster said what we were all thinking: that if Apple is a part of the consumer electronics market, why doesn’t it produce a TV with Apple TV (and a DVR) incorporated?

The first time Faultline predicted this was a full two years earlier, but we’re not followed quite as assiduously as Wall Street analysts, so we’ll let that pass. It IS logical that a consumer electronics company makes TV sets, but it is now just as likely that Apple could provide the chip and the software for everyone to put an Apple TV class experience into TVs and turn them into connected TVs, and sell this to rival TV makers.

Not according to Munster though, on his hobby horse again, saying that Apple is still thinking of rolling out a connected Apple TV. This time he quotes some Far East Taiwanese sources who say that Apple is in the market buying big TV class LCD screens. The fact that the larger Apple Mac screens already have the quality and size – and that the LCD panels are just the same – seems to have escaped him.

Media researcher Screen Digest, now operating under its parent name IHS, speculates that advance payments made to LG, Toshiba Mobile Display and LG Display, including a screen between 27 inches and 50 inches, led Munster to interpret these purchases as meaning a TV is imminent.

"While Apple's commitment to the living room remains a 'hobby', we continue to believe the company will enter the TV market with a full focus, as an all-in-one Apple television could move the needle when connected TVs proliferate," Munster said.

We can’t gainsay him here: an Apple-designed TV set would fly, but not if it limited connectivity purely to Apple or Apple-designated sites. The other rumour that has been around for a long time is that Apple would come out with its own streaming TV channels, but this would have been such a strong spur to sell more iPad tablets, and it’s been a year since the iPad was announced and such a service is long overdue, which we think means the content companies decided against Apple’s terms.

Munster says that during 2012, 50 per cent of the 220 million flat-screen TVs sold would be connected TVs and that Apple could easily capture a piece of that market, suggesting around 1.4 million units initially adding $2.5bn to its revenue line rising to $6bn by 2014.

We have now revised our opinion, and think that Apple’s current spate of pigheadedness and lack of openness would result in any Apple TV design being so closed that it wouldn’t be taken up by the masses.

Can you imagine Apple trying to convince Comcast that it was okay to connect cable service to a TV set that tried to compete with the core cable offering? It’s not going to sit well with any pay TV operators.

Copyright © 2011, Faultline

Faultline is published by Rethink Research, a London-based publishing and consulting firm. This weekly newsletter is an assessment of the impact of the week's events in the world of digital media. Faultline is where media meets technology. Subscription details here.

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