Why Apple Investors Should Be Excited About Today's Announcement

Will Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) revolutionize TV the same way it previously revolutionized MP3 players and smartphones? Earlier today, Apple announced a drastic price cut on its Apple TV players and a deal that allows 99-cent streaming video rentals. While the company's refreshed Apple TV might not have the immediate impact of the iPod, iPhone, or iPad, Apple investors should be excited. The company is staying committed to the lucrative home entertainment market.

Don't forget the iPod
Beyond Apple TV, there were a number of interesting announcements from today's event:

  • Apple is now activating more than 230,000 devices per day using its iOS operating system. Products that use the iOS include the iPhone, iPod touches, and iPads. That number was likely a dig at Google's (Nasdaq: GOOG  ) never-ending reports boasting of increasing Android activation numbers. As of earlier this month, Google had said it was activating 200,000 a day; I'm sure Steve Jobs got a little satisfaction one-upping that estimate. Oh, and he also made sure to include the fact that Apple's activation doesn't include upgrades, while the Androids does.
  • The company announced a game center for iOS. Apple has approximately 35,000 games in its app store, as well as the support of several leading developers. The game center, which allows match making and leaderboards, adds another layer of complexity to iOS as a gaming system at a time when Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) looks to integrate Xbox Live as a key selling point of its new Windows Phone 7.
  • Regarding the iPods, first, Apple plans on releasing a new Shuffle that costs $49 and has buttons. Second, reports of a touch-screen Nano proved correct -- the Nano is now almost 50% smaller and sports a clip. That increased portability is important. As more consumers buy smartphones that can store media, Apple needs to continue finding ways to sell the Nano to users who already carry around a device with the same capability.

Your home, Apple's opportunity
And now to the main course: Apple TV. On Monday I wrote about the vast opportunities in the home entertainment market, and suggested that Apple keep some "skin in the game," even if sales continue to be trivial relative to its overall bottom line. However, Apple had sent out invitations featuring a guitar to the event, leading many to speculate that rumors of a refreshed Apple TV would prove false.

Luckily for Apple shareholders, Apple TV got the makeover it needed. Steve Jobs announced a new Apple TV that can stream HD, has Netflix (Nasdaq: NFLX  ) streaming support, features media deals that allow 99-cent TV show rentals, and only costs $99.

Even after the refresh, Apple TV remains another "additive" box to the home entertainment center. It doesn't perform the same functions as a DVR and won't be replacing set-top boxes in the near future. However, it does keep Apple in the race to one day control the home entertainment market.

Look long-term
The home entertainment market is extremely lucrative, but there are significant barriers for Microsoft, Google, and Apple, which are all eager to grab a slice of the spending pie. Cable companies subsidize set-top boxes, making it difficult to sell high volumes of competing products with DVRs. Also, while a set-top box such as Google TV could conceivably serve up contextual ads and disrupt the television advertising status quo, contracts and long-established relationships between cable companies and media outlets are a major roadblock to a Google or an Apple getting more revenue out of the market.

I won't dare guess how many Apple TVs the company could sell. At $99, it's cheap enough for users who merely want to stream Netflix and watch cheap rentals on their TV; the low price point should fuel a good number of sales. However, I'm looking long-term on this product. While the status quo in television might be strong today, 10 years ago few would have imagined the effect a platform like iTunes would have on the music industry.

Apple's collecting smaller Apple TV sales today, but doing so with one eye to the future. Don't judge any middling sales in the short term -- today's Apple TV is just a stop-gap while the company plots a way into this untapped market.

Fool.com analyst Eric Bleeker does not own shares of any companies mentioned. Google and Microsoft are Motley Fool Inside Value selections. Google is a Motley Fool Rule Breakers pick. Apple and Netflix are Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendations. Motley Fool Options has recommended a diagonal call position on Microsoft. The Fool owns shares of Google. True to its name, The Motley Fool is made up of a motley assortment of writers and analysts, each with a unique perspective; sometimes we agree, sometimes we disagree, but we all believe in the power of learning from each other through our Foolish community. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.


Read/Post Comments (8) | Recommend This Article (13)

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  • Report this Comment On September 01, 2010, at 5:36 PM, Thompr97 wrote:

    Note also that Jobs used the word "shipped" when talking about total iOS devices to date. But when he mentioned the current daily rate (230,000) he used the word "activated". The distinction may be important, or it may be unintentional. Here's why it may be important:

    iPod touches and iPads that don't have 3G do not require "Activation" per se. Sure, they initially need to be synced up with a user's iTunes software, but the word "activation" is more commonly associated with a wireless service, such as that of AT&T in the USA. When Google says "activated", that's certainly what they mean.

    If the distinction is important, then this would imply that Apple is selling roughly 230,000 iPhones and iPad 3G's per day, a massive amount that results in 20 million per quarter. If true, this is going to be the mother of all blowouts.

    Thompson

  • Report this Comment On September 01, 2010, at 5:49 PM, uc22 wrote:

    Interesting, you are the only one saying the Apple TV announcement was a big deal. Most are writting it off as less than eventful. I am not saying you are wrong ... just saying.

  • Report this Comment On September 01, 2010, at 6:44 PM, gman5556 wrote:

    This is hardly innovative. Watching streaming online content on your TV screen is old news. My 60yr old father who uses the computer only for email & news has been doing it for years. Would much rather have Google Tv.

  • Report this Comment On September 01, 2010, at 7:14 PM, TMFRhino wrote:

    uc22,

    Well, I'm focusing more on the fact Apple has stayed committed to the product line and like its long-term prospects. I'd expect most news reports shortly after the release to focus on features. In which case, this edition of Apple TV isn't exactly Earth moving.

    Best,

    Eric Bleeker

  • Report this Comment On September 01, 2010, at 7:36 PM, AlphaCenturion wrote:

    Although I currently have an outperform on Apple, I honestly don't believe this will have any significant impact on the digital media market. So they slashed the price, what's really different? It's the same proprietary, overpriced, piecemeal model that led to this ugly stalemate in the first place. Netflix is the only company that really "gets" it although I currently also have a short term underperform on them due to valuation (man I'm just contradicting myself all over the place). Convenience is one thing, but when it comes down to grabbing market share it's really all about cost. Netflix has been so successful at signing customers because they offer the best deal in the industry hands-down. The Netflix plan is essentially an option (except it doesn't cost you anything to exercise it), and it's so good that it's almost too expensive NOT to have. Even if I go a whole month without watching a single movie, I would still rather be paying for Netflix than not because then at least I have the option. The plan basically pays for itself and THAT's why Netflix is winning the war. Until Apple or Amazon comes out with unlimited plans or offers HD movie rentals for $0.99 they're not going to put a dent on Netflix.

  • Report this Comment On September 01, 2010, at 9:17 PM, TMFRhino wrote:

    Interesting point Thompson... I wonder if the company will clarify in the coming days.

  • Report this Comment On September 02, 2010, at 12:43 PM, PrudentCourier wrote:

    Long term, yes. But watch out for Comcast, you rightly point out that barrier. They want to rent old movies through VOD for $3.99 each. The Roberts family doesn't give up without a fight.

  • Report this Comment On September 02, 2010, at 12:44 PM, scanlin wrote:

    AAPL is doing well even in a slowing economy (230K activations/day! wow). Imagine how well they'd do in a growing economy (ie 2011). They have the best products that everyone wants. They deserve their market cap; and it's only going to get better.

    MikeS

    http://www.borntosell.com

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