Apple Triple Play: iTunes, App TV and Apple Television
“I think the whole category is still a hobby right now. I don’t think anybody has succeeded at it. And actually the experimentation has slowed down. A lot of the early companies that were trying things have faded away. So I would have to say that given the economic conditions, given the venture capital outlooks and stuff, I continue to believe it will be a hobby in 2009.”
– Apple CEO Steve Jobs, October 2008
“We still consider this a hobby. It is clear that the movie rental business has really helped Apple TV and there are more and more customers that want to try it. And we’re going to continue to invest in it, because we fundamentally believe there is something there for us in the future.”
There’s not much of a business yet in Apple TV, as Apple’s leadership often notes. But there may be soon, with the market for connected TVs evolving as it has been.
In a research note issued this morning, Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster says the time is right for Apple to release the next iteration of Apple TV–one that offers DVR capabilities and supports iTunes TV show subscriptions.
“Apple could leverage its deep library of content with many network and cable channel content owners to provide unlimited access to a sub-library of its TV shows for a standard monthly fee ($30 or $40 per month),” Munster writes. “Such a product would effectively replace a consumer’s monthly cable bill (~$85/month) and offer access to current and older episodes of select shows on select channels.”
Further, Munster notes, “The selection would dictate the value, and several tiers could be offered, but we see this as one way for Apple to leverage its large iTunes content library as well as its unique Apple TV hardware in order to get digital video to the TV for a price significantly less than the average cable or satellite TV bill.”
Makes great sense. And if Apple (AAPL) were to launch these services in concert with App Store support, as Munster has suggested in the past, it would be a pretty compelling proposition. And it would set the stage for the next evolution of the platform, the Apple Television, an Internet-connected TV with onboard DVR and media center functionality.
“Beyond new hardware with DVR or iTunes video subscription features, we believe the 2-5 year roadmap for the Apple TV product lineup is robust. To begin with, Internet-connected TVs with interactive features will likely gain popularity in the next several years. Apple could differentiate itself in this market as a seasoned software developer competing largely with television hardware manufacturers that do not excel in the software arena. The device could also bring iPhone games, a relatively new segment for Apple, to the television.
“While this is unlikely in the near term,” Munster continues, “we believe the iPhone will succeed as a portable gaming platform and Apple may consider bringing higher quality games developed on a similar platform to the TV. The iPhone app developer community is already robust, and Apple could leverage those developers to enter the gaming arena on the TV. In fact, the iPhone or iPod touch could itself operate as a touchscreen gaming control for a game-centric Apple TV.”
Again, this makes great sense, though TV hardware is not an easy business–just ask Sony (SNE). But, as Munster aptly notes, it might be quite a bit less difficult if Apple were to “change the rules of the game,” something it’s done in a number of markets already.
That said, as Media Memo’s Peter Kafka just reminded me, the cable companies are working very closely with Hollywood to make sure it’s difficult for people to replace their cable service. They’d almost certainly attempt to sack an initiative like one Munster describes above.