Is This What the Apple TV Set Will Look Like?

We might as well get comfortable with rumors surrounding Apple's (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) 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.

Source: Apple; 27-inch Thunderbolt Display.

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.

Graphic by Dari FitzGerald.

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  ) Paramount Pictures, MGM, and Lions Gate Entertainment (NYSE: LGF  ) . 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  ) took a big hit last week, 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  ) 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.

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

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Fool contributor Evan Niu really hopes Apple doesn't announce its new TV next week (not that it will), because he got sick of waiting and bought a Vizio LED-backlit LCD TV last weekend. He owns shares of Universal Display and Apple, but he holds no other position in any company mentioned. Check out his holdings and a short bio. The Motley Fool owns shares of Universal Display and Apple. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Apple, Universal Display, and Netflix and creating a bull call spread position in Apple. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.

Read/Post Comments (9) | Recommend This Article (13)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On May 12, 2012, at 10:18 PM, superpanman wrote:

    Any reason Apple couldn't use the same display it now uses for the New iPad for the iTV? Isn't the New iPad display supposed to be the highest definition image of any device on the market?

  • Report this Comment On May 12, 2012, at 10:53 PM, TMFNewCow wrote:


    The new iPad's display does boast an incredibly high resolution display, although the iPhone has a sharper one with higher pixel density. These displays are already rather difficult to manufacture for a 9.7-inch display, so manufacturing full-size TV displays of this resolution would be quite a tall order to fill.

    On top of that, there would just be too many pixels and almost no content that'd be properly optimized for a display of that caliber, so its potential would be wasted.

    -- Evan

  • Report this Comment On May 13, 2012, at 1:56 AM, cbglobal wrote:

    That retina iPad display is from Samsung. Amazing how you guys think Apple actually invents anything.

    Also, Samsung already sells televisions with built in a direct web access interface and browser, with access to Netflix, Facebook, etc, etc.

    But you would have to not live in Appleland to know Apple is behind the curve. Even Steve Wozniak thinks his Android phone is better than his iPhone.

  • Report this Comment On May 13, 2012, at 5:19 AM, crewdog58 wrote:

    I still don't know why Apple would actually manufacture a TV set. All the features mentioned in this article could be included in an upgraded version of the already existing $99 AppleTV device. In fact, many of them already are. The Siri interface and remote could be implemented through the iPhone as mentioned in this article or a remote included with the AppleTV. A iSight camera and mic could be built-into the AppleTV. It would be a device that could be sold much cheaper than a full-blown TV and would interface with any HDMI-capable TV currently owned by consumers just like the current AppleTV does. New capabilties could be added via software patches and an annual hardware upgrade cycle. Millions of consumers would invest in a $150-$200 box, way more than would run out and buy a new TV. Having to replace your TV just doesn't sound like the Apple way.

  • Report this Comment On May 13, 2012, at 5:39 AM, crewdog58 wrote:

    cbglobal: If we follow your logic Samsung didn't invent the the retina display either since it didn't invent the components that go into the display. Obviously you harbor some kind of resentment against Apple or Apple fans. Envy or jealousy perhaps? AppleTV provides access to Netflix, iTunes and a host of other services including iCloud and AirPlay. A user-experience well beyond any competitor's offering. Apple just doesn't invent a piece of hardware or a piece of software, it invents the entire eco-system it lives in.

    BTW, What Wozniak REALLY said was the iPhone is still the best overall smartphone. He only said his android phone does somethings better than his iPhone. His iPhone is still his primary phone.

  • Report this Comment On May 13, 2012, at 6:59 AM, H3D wrote:


    Yes, some of the retina displays are made by Samsung, but some are not.

    But like the A5 processor, they include patented technology using patents held by Apple, so they are not a Samsung product that Samsung can sell to others, or use themselves, unless Apple licenses the patents to them.

  • Report this Comment On May 13, 2012, at 7:06 AM, H3D wrote:


    After Jobs' death, it looked like Wozniak was angling for a high profile role at Apple.

    That didn't happen.

    So now it looks like his nose is out of joint. A bit pathetic really.

    He designed great floppy disk controllers. But what does that count for in this context.

    Nobody has cared about a word he's said for 20 years.

  • Report this Comment On May 13, 2012, at 12:47 PM, sidneyleejohnson wrote:

    A hell of a lot of people actually respect the Woz. I really can't think of a polite way to express my anger at your disrespect for the Woz. So @% off.

  • Report this Comment On May 13, 2012, at 12:52 PM, sidneyleejohnson wrote:

    I wouldn't rule out the rapid rise of oled TV. The competition between LG and SMD is heating up big time and I think the big surprise is how fast they move into mass production. I suspect they are working 24/7 on this transition and expending vast resources to make it happen. When SMD says they have enough to meet Apple's demand and they stop playing monopoly Apple will be on oled. Frankly though since display manufactures make TVs why on earth would they just hand over the TV market to Apple like has happened with music players and phones. Stupid move. If anything they should hold Apple back with a 100 foot pole. As long as Apple doesn't let them include the iOS in their hardware they shouldn't sell hardware to Apple. This one way deal Apple has going with its ecosystem is just BS and waiting for Apple's "Netscape" moment from Anti-Trust/DOJ.

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