Why Apple really needs to start selling TVs

The Wall Street Journal reports the company is working with Asian manufacturers to test components for its long-rumored television set. About time?

A rumored Apple TV set?
(Image credit: AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

The Apple TV is coming. Or it isn't. Or perhaps, at the very least, it's being tested. That's the nebulous takeaway from a new Wall Street Journal report, which claims Apple is "working with component suppliers in Asia to test several TV-set designs," according to "people familiar with the situation." Adding fuel to rumors that Apple is hot on joining Microsoft, Sony, and Google in the land-grab for your living room as a way to extend its offerings beyond mobile and personal computing, the report says that suppliers like Japan's Sharp (known for large, high-resolution screens) and FoxConn (which builds actual hardware) are working with Apple to develop components for the long-rumored, fully-realized TV set (not the iTunes box it already offers). The new device's features — Siri integration? A 3D remote app? — are, unfortunately, pure speculation at this point.

One thing is clear, says John Paczkowski at All Things D. Apple really needs to reveal a new TV. Badly. It's not that the company's product offerings aren't strong; they are. For investors, it's "the fear that Apple may not have any more disruptive innovations left in it." The once infallible company is clearly having problems, and a game-changing TV that could upset the stodgy cable-box industry is exactly the prescription it needs.

Consider that Apple shares closed Tuesday at $541.39, well off their September high of $705. This during a time when the company is headed into the holiday season with one of its strongest product lineups ever: A new iPhone, iPad, iPad mini, new iPods, and refreshed Mac desktops and portables. If that’s not driving Apple shares skyward, what will?

The Apple TV is the rumor that will never die, says Richard Lawler at Engadget, so let's not get too excited. Say we indulge this latest Wall Street Journal report — which isn't that different from a story published back in May — just for a second. The unremarkable gist is: "Apple is — like nearly every technology company — extremely interested in developing products for your living room."

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They were under Steve Jobs, they are with Tim Cook at the helm. Unfortunately, for reasons ranging from studio licensing agreements to DRM to a lack of access to pay-TV provider data/content, it's very difficult to do with the level of polish and control of experience Apple would like. Microsoft and Sony are spending billions of dollars on their Xbox 360 and PS3 just to grab a foothold in this market, with varying levels of success, while Google's TV project has experienced even tougher growing pains.

Take this latest report with a grain of salt, says Jacqui Cheng at Ars Technica. The sad fact is the Apple TV may never, ever make it to market:

Apple often tests designs with its Asian partners without committing to manufacturing, though the company usually does spend years doing its own internal designs before involving outside suppliers. In this case, it sounds as if Apple has at least gotten that far — two sources claim Hon Hai is the supplier that's working with Sharp to design the new TV — though there's no guarantee that it (or other designs) will ever see the light of day.

Current CEO Tim Cook stirred up renewed interest when he told NBC's Brian Williams that Apple has an "intense interest" in the TV race. However, "that's likely to be all we'll hear from him about it until the mythical device makes its debut." If it ever does.

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