By Jim Karpen on Sat, 01/07/2012
Let's separate facts from rumors. Here is what we know: 1) Steve Jobs was focused on developing an Apple TV set when he passed away, and told biographer Walter Isaacson that the current TV interface is broken and that he had figured out a solution. 2) Apple has put together prototype TV sets. 3) Apple has been negotiating with content providers. And here's what we don't know: 1) Whether Apple will actually come out with a TV set. 2) When it would come out with one.
So let's look at some of the most recent scuttle to see if we can fill in the picture a bit. Some of it's quite fascinating. USA Today reported this week that Apple designer Jony Ive has a "slick" prototype of a 50-inch TV in his studio at Apple. If Apple is going to come out with a TV, now is the time, because so called "smart TVs" are going to be touted at next week's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. These TVs will have a more intelligent, easier-to-use interface and will be connected to the Internet. There will be greater ease of searching, and greater integration of network and Internet video. You can read more about the coming smart TVs and connected TVs in the USA Today article and in an article on AppleInsider.
Perhaps the most interesting post recently is AppleInsider's article about Apple's desire to offer customized channel lineups. This, in my mind, is the grail. Why should you pay for 100 channels that you don't use when all you really want are a few favorites? I watch very little TV, but I have some favorites, both online and via network broadcast. I wouild love a customized channel lineup that would give me a bit of sports, a nature channel, CNET videos, the Daily Show, and NBC Nightly News. Right now I have to go several different places for this.
Also revealed this week by AppleInsider is a patent application by Apple for a new technology referred to as dynamic backlighting that will improve picture quality by showing true black colors.
Apple has been negotiating with the studios, and they haven't been receptive. They like the current model, and are loathe to change. But so was the music industry, and Apple turned it on its head. Hopefully Apple will do the same thing again. In fact, it has to happen. Every survey and every news report says that broadcast TV is losing audience share to streaming video. Something has to give, and likely Apple will be the guy to figure out the way into the future. People know this, industry executives know this. And the ghost of Apple will be everywhere at CES as everyone tries to figure out what Apple has up its sleeve and what direction things will go in.
So how far along is Apple in the process of actually manufacturing a TV? Well, according to AppleInsider, which cites DigiTimes, Apple will be finalizing the hardware standards for its new TV by the end of the second quarter of this year (June), after which it will then place its orders with component suppliers. The manufacturer is expected to be Foxconn, which already makes many of Apple's offerings.
Rumors continue to circulate that there will be three sizes: 32, 37, and 52 inches. Likely there will be Siri-like voice control. Certainly it will be a connected, smart TV. And possibly you'll be able to subscribe to a menu of content, just as you do with cable TV.
It's going to be fun to watch this unfold. And in the meantime, it will be interesting to see what takes shape at CES next week.