Is This What The Apple TV Set Will Look Like?

Published in Investing on 15 May 2012

A roundup of the latest speculation on Apple's TV.

A version of this article originally appeared on our US site, Fool.com.

We might as well get comfortable with rumors surrounding Apple's (NASDAQ: AAPL.US) all but inevitable full-sized TV set, since this speculation is here to stay.

The Apple-centric site Cult of Mac has a source that has allegedly laid eyes on a prototype for Apple's HDTV. The "well-placed" source claims to have seen the specific device that Steve Jobs was referring to when he told biographer Walter Isaacson he had "finally cracked it," referring to an integrated TV.

What will it look like?

The device supposedly physically looks like Apple's current Thunderbolt or LED Cinema Display monitors, complete with an iSight camera that will be used for FaceTime video calls, except "much larger." Those monitors feature 27-inch displays, which would be fairly modest for the TV market.

anImage

Source: Apple; 27-inch Thunderbolt Display.

The report also says that Apple's virtual assistant Siri will make an appearance, which can be used to start a FaceTime call and presumably other functions that weren't mentioned specifically. Not much else was mentioned in the report, like other specifications, pricing, or time frame.

For comparison, here's the mockup our own Dari FitzGerald put together for me last year, based on what I think should make its way into the new device.

anImage

Graphic by Dari FitzGerald.

While Siri didn't make it into the new iPad, that was probably because not all iPads can rely on having network connectivity. For a stationary device that sits on your home Wi-Fi network all day, there's a strong case that Siri will be included. Ambient noise interference could be a challenge if you're sitting across the room, which is why I envisioned integration through an iPhone or other device.

Hold your iHorses

The timeframe is the biggest unknown. JPMorgan Chase's Mark Moskowitz doesn't think we'll see a full-blown Apple HDTV until 2014 but expects it to deliver a "differentiated" experience, notably without requiring "game-changing, content-related deals." He thinks the hardware and software integration, industrial design, and ease of use will be the real selling points.

On the other hand, NPD DisplaySearch director Paul Gagnon expects Apple's foray to be introduced later this year, but that won't ship until 2013, although conceding that he doesn't have any specific evidence. Gagnon does point out that Apple's manufacturing partner Foxconn has invested $1.6 billion in Sharp's TV business, which can manufacture displays up to 60 inches.

Cutting in on Netflix?

There have also been reports that Apple has been talking with Epix, a movie-streaming service formed through a joint venture between Viacom's (NASDAQ: VIA.US) Paramount Pictures, MGM, and Lions Gate Entertainment (NYSE: LGF.US). Although these talks were supposedly related to Apple's current set-top box, or STB, the discussions are said to include future devices.

It just so happens that streaming king Netflix (NASDAQ: NFLX.US) took a big hit recently, when Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman said Epix would be available to rival streaming providers. Coincidence? Possibly, but also possibly not.

What not to expect

In terms of what type of technology the TV will use, I'd wager that it'll employ an LED-backlit LCD, similar to Apple's monitors. A separate NPD DisplaySearch report notes that LED-backlit TVs continue to penetrate the market and should soon lead to the demise of traditional cold-cathode fluorescent lamps, or CCFLs, by the end of 2014. As more than 80% of the CCFL industry is dedicated to TVs, CCFL technology is on its last legs.

As much as Universal Display (NASDAQ: PANL.US) would love Apple to tap OLED technology, don't bet on it in Apple's TV. Even as Apple continues to research OLED technology, and I expect the company to adopt it eventually, it won't be in this device and it won't be so soon. Manufacturing costs remain prohibitively high -- LG is planning on launching a 55-inch OLED TV this month, but it costs nearly $8,000.

LED-backlit is the safest choice here.

That mostly summarizes the latest round of Apple HDTV speculation, but this is far from the last you've heard of it. This rumour mill will keep chugging along until Apple's ready to storm into its next frontier.

> "10 Steps To Making A Million In The Market" is the very latest Motley Fool guide to help Britain invest. Better. We urge you to read the free report today -- it may transform your wealth. 

> Evan owns shares in Universal Display and Apple.

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