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Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL ) shares tumbled on Wednesday following a disappointing iPhone event. Without a cheaper or larger iPhone, the company hasn't improved its handset business. Venture Capitalist Fred Wilson even went so far as to call Apple "clueless."
But perhaps Apple investors have something else to look forward to. According to MG Seigler, a noted tech blogger and partner at Google Ventures, Apple is preparing a big announcement next month -- new Apple TV hardware.
Apple's grand vision
Investors have been anticipating an Apple TV set for what feels like forever. As far back as 2009, Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster was calling for a full-fledged Apple TV; a prediction that's since been supported by comments from Apple's management.
Apple's founder Steve Jobs told his biographer Walter Isaacson that Apple was working on a TV in 2011. Back then, Jobs said he had "cracked" the interface problem -- the confusing mess of inputs and remotes required to control a modern TV set.
CEO Tim Cook made similar remarks, telling NBC's Brian Williams last December that Apple had "intense interest" in the TV market. Then in May, he told the AllThingsD conference that Apple had a "grand vision" for TV.
Obviously, Apple already plays in the TV market to some extent. Its $99 set-top box, the Apple TV, has grown increasingly popular in recent months; as of May, Apple had sold 13 million of them, and has been working to update the device's software -- recently adding apps from Disney and ESPN.
But Apple's set-top box is far from the sort of revolutionary product the company is known for (in the past, Apple referred to it a "hobby"). When the real Apple TV arrives, it should be far more substantial.
Microsoft's TV product is just two months away
Apple's rival Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT ) has a TV product of its own coming Nov. 22. Its next video game console, the Xbox One, is as much of a smart TV as it is a system for playing video games.
In its most recent ad for the device, Microsoft ignores the Xbox One's gaming capabilities entirely, instead focusing on the console's ability to enhance the TV viewing experience. In addition to offering voice and gesture controls, the Xbox One can sync with the owner's fantasy football team, showing real-time scoring updates. It also offers personalized recommendations, and Skype-based video calls.
Intel's Internet-based cable service
But the Xbox One is merely an add-on: To get the full functionality, the owner must also have cable. That isn't the case with Intel's (NASDAQ: INTC ) upcoming service, which is said to blend a high-tech interface with an Internet-based paid-TV service.
Intel's offering will reportedly be called OnCue, and could launch later this year. Initially, Intel was planning to include a camera that would allow for video calls and facial recognition, but the Wall Street Journal reported that it was scrapping the camera after noting that it didn't perform as well as expected. Nevertheless, Intel's paid-TV service could be much more than a traditional cable package -- in June, it said that it would invest $100 million into technologies like gesture controls and voice recognition.
The future of TV
Whether Apple decides to follow Microsoft (with an add-on device) or Intel (with a full service), remains to be seen, but investors should be eager to see what Apple has planned for the living room.
Analysts believe that a full-featured TV set could add much to Apple's earnings: Last December, Morgan Stanley's Katy Huberty estimated that Apple could sell 13 million TV sets in one year, adding $4.50 to the company's earnings per share (a boost of about 10%).
Apple could have its hands full competing with other tech giants entering the space; regardless, a new product category is reason for investors to be excited.
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