Why Apple Isn't Selling an HDTV -- And How They'll Make Their Mark on the Industry

As our blogger Todd Bernhard posted, the Wall Street Journal reported earlier this week that Apple decided over a year ago not to bring an HDTV to market. I'm guilty of hyping the rumors saying one was coming. And certainly Apple seriously considered it, having developed a number of prototypes. The rumor was further stimulated by the Isaacson Steve Jobs biography, which made it sound like the late Apple founder had conceived of a new interface for TV that would make it much better. So why would Apple decide not to bring a TV to market, especially knowing that a million Apple fan boys would immediately snap it up? 

According to an interesting article in Wired, the profit margin just isn't there. TVs have become a commodity, with very thin profit margins. Apple's products have an average profit margin of 40 percent, compared to 10 percent in the TV industry.

Apple is famous for its tightly focused product line. It won't launch a new product unless it's convinced it will be highly profitable and have a big impact on the industry. MacDailyNews has posted a famous quote from Steve Jobs about Apple's genius being the ability to say no:

People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully. I’m actually as proud of the things we haven’t done as the things I have done. Innovation is saying no to 1,000 things. 

Yet, it's clear that Apple is aiming to make its mark on the TV industry. And next month we'll find out what it has in mind. It's an exciting time, and it could well be Apple will disrupt yet another industry — in three ways.

First, Apple is widely expected to announce a new version of its Apple TV set-top box, which will likely come up with the better interface Jobs envisioned. Expect it to use Siri and to be easy and intuitive. Plus, rumors say it will come with a new multi-touch remote. 

Second, Apple is known to be planning to offer a bundle of cable channels. This is only going to accelerate the disruption already taking place in the cable industry as a result of the "cord-cutters" who are opting to stream their TV content rather than go with a local cable service.

Third, it's quite possible that the new Apple TV will serve as a hub for the smarthome devices based on Apple's new HomeKit platform.

In short, Apple TV will offer a new experience. And it will no doubt be yet another example of Apple's famed intuitive design. 

Not only is the TV interface ripe for a new approach, but so are the multifarious smart home devices that are proliferating. Frankly, they're often difficult to set up, and each works differently. A common interface for all of them is a powerful vision, and could greatly speed up adoption. Having them all controlled by a central device that also controls your TV content would be a brilliant move.

This might all be pie-in-the-sky. But I'm really hoping we'll see something like this in June. It's going to be an interesting WWDC event June 8. In any case, Apple can make a huge mark on the industry even without their own HDTV. Let the other manufacturers scrounge for profit in this area. Apple's vision is to make it all work together in an intuitive fashion.

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Jim Karpen's picture

Author Details

Jim Karpen

Jim Karpen holds a Ph.D. in literature and writing, and has a love of gizmos. His doctoral dissertation focused on the revolutionary consequences of digital technologies and anticipated some of the developments taking place in the industry today. Jim has been writing about the Internet and technology since 1994 and has been using Apple's visionary products for decades.