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By Greg Mills
Let me first make it very clear: Apple getting serious about TV does not mean they are going to try to compete with the always cheaper, large flat screen HDTV TV manufacturers. There is just no money in throwing low margin TV sets out the door to flood an already saturated retail TV market. I have read the stories in the press and still doubt Apple plans to launch Apple branded Flatscreen TV set. Something more like a more advanced Apple TV device with DVR features yes, expensive, low margine TVs, no this is why:
Apple is way too smart to do that. It is hard to imagine anything short of a projected, 3D, HD, full color hologram projector system that would be revolutionary enough to allow Apple to make money on TV sets. While a hologram projector system is the sort of thing Apple would work on, I don't think technology is there yet to make such a system ready for consumer sales.
With current known display technology it is hard to see such a significant breakthrough Apple could do to TVs what the iPhone did to cell phones. One of the secrets to the success of iPhone is that the cellular networks subsidize the price of iPhone and there isn't a business model that would support subsidizing large screen TV sets. That would mean the full price of an Apple HDTV would be paid by consumers. Apple is realistic and knows how markets work.
The constant leaks regarding the book titled "Steve Jobs," which portends to give a lot of inside information about the man and his life, has intriguing tidbits such as a claim that Steve said he had cracked the problem of producing an Apple sort of user interface for HDTV and the jungle of boxes and wires it takes to supply digital content. (See http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/technology/jobss-final-plan-an-in...). I quote:
“He very much wanted to do for television sets what he had done for computers, music players, and phones: make them simple and elegant,” Isaacson wrote."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.’ ”
An improved user interface does not a full blown TV make.
I searched the US Patent Office web site to see if there was a patent pending for television as a word in the abstract and Jobs as inventor and came up blank. It takes a few months for patent applications to be filed and published so there may still be such an invention out there that is still under wraps. All I found were patents that relate to the Apple TV device. Steve Jobs is way too cryptic and secretive to have completely spilled the beans on the next big thing at Apple. Disinformation is more his speed.
If you read betweens the lines, you can still come up with an enhanced Apple TV box to end all other boxes. The notion that Apple is going to pump out flat screen TV sets is still nuts, in my opinion. There is no margin in them. That Jobs could fix problematic devices and revolutionize entire industries is a no-brainer. Given that, you still can't get around the ever declining market prices on large screen HDTV sets. Heck, I bought a 55--inch Visio HDTV last black Friday for $870 at Sams.
Could they lauch some sort of Apple quality DVR, cable, Internet capable, enhanced Apple TV device, yes. I think an Apple branded DVR would sell well, and I would certainly get one. I dumped Time Warner Cable in part due to a crappy DVR (really the crappy software) and went with Dish which has a better box. The Dish DVR is much better, but lacks a dual HDTV out ability. An Apple brand HDTV box that has power and internet in and HDMI out is called Apple TV. Add DVR features and you would have something worthwhile. Add some more Jobsian magic to the Apple TV and you would have a great Apple DVR product, but not a screen element.
We still have a drawer full of remote controls and the back of the TV set looks like a plate of black spagetti. Is there room to improve the industry and hardware? The answer to that is yes, will Apple sell a line of expensive HDTVs that have a 7% margin? Get real.
That is Greg's Bite.