Apple has apparently contacted at least one manufacturer of HDTV displays as it prepares its long-rumored iTV. Analyst Gene Munster of Piper Jaffray said in a note to investors yesterday that Apple had asked at least one “major TV component supplier” about display technology for the device.
Though Munster believes Apple could be ready to release the iTV by late 2012, the question of content still remains. In December there were reports that Apple was meeting with executives from major content providers to discuss Apple’s plans for entering the TV market. Shortly after, there were reports that Apple wanted to offer users access to custom channel lineups, rather than the package-based options currently offered by cable companies. While Apple could easily have an iTV ready by the end of the year, the kind of agreements necessary to implement such a programming model would likely take considerably longer.
Munster’s report noted Apple’s tendency to revolutionize the markets it enters, and believes that if Apple is entering the already quite well-established television market, it must be planning to offer a “revamped TV content solution.”
Munster suggested three alternatives for such a content solution. First, Apple could offer a TV that managed users’ live TV service as provided by their cable company. Rather like TiVo, such an iTV would would integrate users’ pre-existing cable or dish service with Apple’s own software solutions (and maybe DVR). While Munster believes this solution to be “easiest and most likely,” he also says it would be “the least revolutionary.” Such a TV would have much the same functionality as the currently existing Apple TV. While integrating such functionality more deeply with the actual television would be a major step, it is not quite meet the standard of revolution Apple set for itself with previous devices like the iPhone and iPad.
The second option Munster sees involves Apple offering access to live TV from network channels as well as other web-based video options like Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon, and others. He also speculates that under this scenario the iTV would get something that Apple TV users have wanted for ages: the App Store. Under this scenario, the iTV integrates Apple TV functionality into the TV, as before, but presents the user with a wider array of content options.
The third scenario is what Apple reportedly wants to do: offer a monthly subscription that allows users to choose live TV channels a la carte from the content providers. This is the option that would require Apple to secure deals with the networks, no small task considering how much they currently make on the traditional cable TV package model.
Though Munster sees the first option as most likely, I’m guessing that Apple will follow a plan similar to what the one that made the iTunes Music Store such a success. Apple will do what it has to to get an iTV into the hands – or onto the walls – of users. Once the device has been available for awhile and is popular with users, Apple will leverage its success to get the kind of content deals it really wants.[Image Credit: Guilherme Schasiepen]