updated 11:35 am EDT, Fri July 2, 2010
Hulu Plus model seen as detour around cable co.
Apple is likely working on a standalone, Internet-ready TV that could ship in the next two to four years, says Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster. While similar claims have been made for some time, Munster cites several signs that Apple has a project going. Among these is the new Mac mini, the first to include HDMI output. The computer is popular as a media center system, and Munster argues that Apple intends to push the Mac further in this direction.
"We see this as a small, intermediate step towards a larger move into the living room with an all-in-one, connected TV," the analyst writes. "Also, recent media reports have indicated that Apple may soon release an updated, low-cost Apple TV set-top-box with updated software and possibly an App Store, further indication of continued interest in the living room and progress towards a television." Today rumors re-emerged that Apple is working on a $99, iPhone-sized device with 16GB of storage, which would nevertheless have an A4 processor and 1080p video output.
At this June's D8 conference, CEO Steve Jobs contended that obstacles for Apple in the TV industry include an absence of broadcast standards, and subsidized set-tops provided by cable and satellite companies, which kill the desire to pay for more hardware. Building an all-in-one TV would circumvent the set-top issue, says Munster. To tackle standards, Apple could conceivably sell iTunes TV subscriptions costing between $50 and $90 a month, replacing the need for cable and satellite bills entirely. A highlighted frame of reference is Hulu Plus, which costs $10 a month and provides ad-supported TV streaming.