Apple is expected to launch a new Apple TV in the coming months with limited storage, a lower price, and its own App Store, paving the way for an Internet-connected HDTV as soon as 2012.
Gene Munster, an analyst at Piper Jaffray, believes Apple will launch an internet-enabled “connected HDTV” some time in the next two to four years that will bring its iTunes music and movie download service directly to the living room.
Munster said that a rumoured forthcoming refresh of the Apple TV set-top box was likely, but that it would be just one part of the overall jigsaw, paving the way for a stand-alone high-definition television that integrated Apple TV’s key features.
The new box, expected to be called iTV, is thought to use many of the components found in the iPod touch and iPad, and will have a limited amount of memory. Apple is thought to be readying a new data centre in North Carolina that would support a cloud-based iTunes streaming service, enabling people to stream movies and TV shows to the low-powered iTV, rather than having to store them on the device’s hard drive.
Munster believes a future Apple HDTV would boast these streaming capabilities, and that users would pay around $90 per month for access to content on the iTunes store. The television, combined with the iTunes service, could replace devices such as games consoles, DVD players and even cable or satellite television subscriptions.
“Apple’s ability to deliver hardware, software and content that could replace an entire entertainment system with a single TV, puts Apple in a unique position for the emerging connected TV cycle,” wrote Munster in a note to investors.”
Apple already has several of the key ingredients for success in the connected TV market, many of which would differentiate Apple from current market players.”
However, other industry watchers are less certain that Apple will launch a HDTV with integrated iTunes. “I’d strongly disagree that the Apple HDTV was inevitable,” wrote leading analyst Michael Gartenberg on his Twitter feed. “Apple needs to connect with existing screens, not new ones … [The rumoured HDTV is] not happening.”
It’s not the first time that Munster has predicted Apple’s entry in to the television market. Last February, he said that he expected Apple to “design a connected television. with DVR functionality built in” to hit shops by the end of 2011.
Apple itself seems unsure of the value of connected television services. Steve Jobs, Apple’s chief executive, has in the past dismissed Apple TV as “a hobby”, and said that it would be hard to convince consumers to pay a significant amount of money for a set-top box and monthly subscription when they’re used to paying much less for these services.
“The only way that’s ever going to change is if you can really go back to square one, tear up the set top box, redesign it from scratch with a consistent user interface across all these different functions, and get it to consumers in a way that they’re willing to pay for it,” said Jobs. “And right now there’s no way to do that.”
As he has said before, Munster believes Apple could push into the hDTV market in the next 2 to 4 years, and could “move the needle” in a market that as of January of 2010 was worth more than $30 billion. [via Daily Telegraph (UK) and Apple Insider]