Rumors and speculation about a possible TV set made by Apple are overwhelming the rumorsphere, re-ignited by three events.
The Wall Street Journal reported today that Apple is testing TV prototypeswith Asian suppliers. Everybody is quick to say this fact doesn't mean Apple has decided to build a TV. But still, it's an interesting development.
The news comes days after Apple CEO Tim Cook told NBC's Brian Williams that bringing TV usage into the modern era is "an area of intense interest" for Apple.
And finally, Morgan Stanley's Katy Huberty talked this week about a surveythat found that nearly half those surveyed would be either "extremely" or "somewhat" interested in buying a TV set from Apple. On average, consumers would be willing to pay about 20% more for a TV if Apple made it.
Why TV Is a Mess
The speculation is driven by the fact that Apple has repeatedly entered new markets where the content-consumption experience was terrible, and reinvented those markets.
Most recently, Apple re-invented the tablet market with the iPad.
As pundits and users cast around for remaining content-consumption experiences that need Apple's unique touch, the TV experience seems most urgent.
Apple has been selling a product called Apple TV since 2007, a product line the late Apple founder and CEO Steve Jobs called a "hobby."
The problems with using a TV is manifold, and they're problems we're all familiar with. First, most people with big screen TVs, cable subscriptions and other enhancements find themselves with a coffee table full of confusing, complex remotes that never seem to be programmed or set up in a way that makes using the TV convenient.
Second, the user interfaces we use for finding, recording, and playing content on our TVs are torturous.
Fourth, the way cable TV is provisioned, you end up having to pay a fortune for a small number of shows -- in order to watch only one cable show that produces only 12 shows per year, you've got to subscribe to a 24-hour-per-day channel.
And finally, even "smart TVs" are used like dumb TVs. They're not social enough, the apps aren't compelling or useful.
These are precisely the problems some believe Apple is in the unique position to solve. And so we've got rumors and speculation galore.
Why the Rumors and Speculation Are Wrong
First, it's important to note that despite the sheer volume of chatter about Apple's plans in for television, not a single one of these speculative guesses is informed by a verifiably reliable source. Here's why I think nearly all the rumors and speculation and assumptions about Apple's future plans for TV are completely wrong.
Rumor: Apple will ship a TV set soon.
Not likely. Apple is apparently nowhere near the point where it can ship TV sets out the door. Even the testing of TVs, reported today, is something companies might do a year or two before shipping anything.
The component-supply chain is already buckling under the demands of other consumer electronics devices, including tablets, to supply high-quality screens. It would take Apple a very long time to ramp up this capability.
Assumption: Apple's TV set will replace Apple TV.
There is no chance that Apple will be able to achieve its likely goals via a TV set alone. They'll need an Apple TV-like box used on another brand of TV set as a way to get the market power to influence Hollywood to cut advantageous distribution deals with Apple.
In fact, a TV set is optional; but the hockey-puck plug in media box will always be a requirement for Apple.
Remember that it was iTunes for Windows that made the iPod and iPhone become so massively popular. Apple can't get the user numbers if they try to achieve that with just a TV set alone.