The Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL ) iTV chatter has been quiet lately, and understandably so. The past few weeks have been full of real news about new MacBooks and iOS 6 updates to worry about unicorns, iTVs, and other fictional creatures.
However, now it's time to revisit the possibility that Apple's full-blown HDTV may be taking up space in early adopters' living rooms as early as this holiday season.
Yes, it could happen. Topeka Capital Markets analyst Brian White notes this week that a Chinese website, 21cbh.com, claims that contract manufacturer Hon Hai will be receiving Sharp LCD TV panels, probably intended for production of the iTV, during this year's third quarter. The shipment would give Apple enough time to get its inevitable smart TV on the market by the end of this calendar year.
The story isn't airtight, of course. We're talking about an analyst citing an obscure supply-chain watcher with a tidbit of information that may or may not have anything at all to do with the iTV. There are so many places where this rumor can crumble apart.
However, does it really matter if Apple rolls out its Web-enabled flat screens late this year or early next year? It's going to be a hit. Denying that point will only break your heart, so let's go over a few of the reasons a lot of people will be buying the iTV.
1. It's Apple. Duh.
After selling hundreds of millions of iOS devices, it's hard to question Apple's success. Cynics argued that the iPad was just a blown-up iPhone touch, but it changed the way we view tablets. The iTV is similarly going to change the way we view smart televisions.
Apple is King Midas with iOS until it proves mortal.
2. The iTV will be more than just a supersized iPad.
On a recent trip to Asia, White learned that Apple isn't simply blowing up the iPad. That would be silly. Who wants a touchscreen monitor? Not only do you not want a smudged screen, but who wants to get up to navigate a TV? That's so 1965.
It's been rumored for months that the iTV touchscreen element would be the remote control. That makes perfect sense. The remote would have an iPod component to navigate through the big screen.
3. FaceTime is just skin-deep.
White's also hearing that the Apple smart TV will feature a special motion-detection technology. Sounds a lot like Microsoft's (Nasdaq: MSFT ) Kinect, right? Motions and gestures can trigger functions beyond the remote control.
However, just as all three of Apple's iOS lines come with user-facing cameras for FaceTime, it would follow that Apple's iOS-fueled television would have a pretty decent camera as part of the motion-detection technology.
As Microsoft's working with cable providers on a premium Skype promotion, Apple's likely to make a value-added feature on its TV. Consumer videoconferencing is about to get popular, the way corporate videoconferencing has over the years.
4. Content is king.
Netflix (Nasdaq: NFLX ) has done a great job of educating the market on the value of streaming TV shows and movies, but its digital catalog lacks the new releases and first-run shows that consumers crave.
Apple has already been reasonably successful with its iTunes video offerings, but now it's going to have the actual TV that serves video in its ideal environment.
Could it be that Netflix has stayed away from offering piecemeal rentals -- and Apple has refrained from offering unlimited digital-media smorgasbords -- as an unwritten truce? Obviously, consumers want both. Viewers want the deep library that Netflix can stream and the fresh content that Apple markets through iTunes. Apple's TV will probably either incorporate Netflix streaming and iTunes piecemeal rentals as the mother of all digital solutions, or the company will take on Netflix.
Either way, Apple already has the iTunes ecosystem ready to go.
5. Apple has learned from past mistakes.
Apple didn't put out the first smartphone or tablet. The class act of Cupertino simply raised the bar.
We've seen companies throw their weight behind smart televisions before home Wi-Fi was everywhere. We had Google (Nasdaq: GOOG ) fumble its initial foray into Google TV by failing to strike the necessary deals for content. Apple, on the other hand, has had time to watch the field play out. It knows which paths to avoid, and that's why Apple will be a TV star sooner than you might think.
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