updated 12:50 pm EDT, Sun August 28, 2011
Rumor of Apple TV set revived once again
The persistent rumor of an Apple-branded TV was sparked once again with a rumor from multiple sources. The tips from San Francisco Bay area contacts for Alsop Louie Ventures didn't say much more than that it would most likely run iOS and with an aim for 2012. Co-founder Stewart Alsop explained to VentureBeat that he was on the boards of Sonos and TiVo and was connected to the hardware field.
He speculated that Apple was mostly held back by the costs of LCD panels.
Rumors of a full Apple TV, not just today's media hub, have been persistent for years and have in some cases been projections of desires more than reality. Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster has long called for an Apple TV set but has only now begun claiming sources at Apple and the supply chain that suggest Apple might be moving forward. A tentative separate report also mentioned a new TV video delivery method in the works at Apple.
Steve Jobs at the D8 conference last year went so far as to suggest that digital media hubs were struggling because they competed with free cable set-top boxes and that the "go-to-market strategy" needed to be better. The redesigned Apple TV hadn't been launched at the time, but he implied a dissatisfaction with the external box concept itself.
Numerous reasons still exist as to why Apple might not go into TVs. The market is heavily commoditized and might reduce the incentive to participate. Apple is also fond of encouraging frequent upgrades and can't do that with TVs, where many will keep the same set for several years or more. Its tendency to obsolete software after two to three years could create problems if sets are locked out of major features or even lose some existing functionality.
The field has still received calls for improvement. Many TVs are criticized for having complicated interfaces. LG, Samsung, and others have Internet support and apps but often just a limited set of features for either. Apple might also be keen to preemptively shut down competition from Google TV while it's still struggling. Google's platform has largely failed in the past year, though much of this has come from Google's overdependence on web video matched with many TV studios blocking the very pages Google had been counting on. A proper Apple TV set could let users viewers push video directly to the TV from many sources, including the web, and produce a much larger TV app ecosystem.