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Apple flat-screen TV rumor rises yet again

Steve Jobs speaks, persistent analyst listens

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A perennial Apple rumor is making the rounds yet again: that Cupertino is preparing to launch its own flat-screen TV.

If you've been reading The Reg for any amount of time, you have heard that prediction before – and the source has often been Piper Jaffrey analyst Gene Munster.

Well, Munster is back with another Apple-branded television prediction, but this time he has a new source to back him up: Walter Isaacson's just-released authorized biography of Steve Jobs.

In that book Isaacson recounts a conversation with Jobs, "'I'd like to create an integrated television set that is completely easy to use,' he told me. 'It would be seamlessly synced with all of your devices and with iCloud.' No longer would users have to fiddle with complex remotes for DVD players and cable channels. 'It will have the simplest user interface you could imagine. I finally cracked it.'"

In a note to his clients on Monday, CNNMoney reports, Munster relates that discussion, and postulates that what Jobs "cracked" was the interaction of broadcast TV and iCloud-stream content, and that perhaps the new iPhone's voice-activated artificial intelligence system, Siri, could be used to "simplify the chore of inputting information like show titles, or actor names, into a TV."

Or not. As we've said, Munster has been over this ground before. In August 2009 he said that an Apple flat-screen TV would be released in 2011.

Last September, he interpreted a no-details deal between Apple and content supplier Rovi to indicate that "Apple is developing live TV and DVR features for its Apple TV product, and will likely launch an all-in-one Apple Television in the next 2-4 years."

Early this year he refined that date, as quoted by CNNMoney: "For over a year ... we have believed that Apple will enter the television market by the end of CY12 at the earliest. ... 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."

In Monday's note, Munster cites other events to bolster his case, such as rumblings and whisperings among Asian suppliers, and a few Apple patents that relate to a possible television, such as the UI-related "Enhancing media system metadata".

Munster goes as far as to predict an Apple television's selling price – $1,800 in 2012, $1,600 in 2013, and $1,400 in 2014 – and revenue for those three years: $2,471m, $3,974m, and $6,048m. And yes, his revenue predictions are, indeed, that exact.

Isaacson's quote does put some wind beneath the wings of Munster's never-say-die predictions, but we're not holding our breath. Remember, what eventually became known as the iPad was already being referred to as "delayed" in 2003 and "long-awaited" in 2004.

But if Munster is right about an Apple television appearing by the end of next year, we're holding out hope that a Siri-based interface isn't what Jobs was referring to when he said Apple's "integrated television set" would have the "simplest user interface you could imagine."

Conversing with a television is a wee bit too dystopian for our sensibilities. ®

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