Apple has a tendency to make businesses nervous — just ask the CD folks assimilated into the iTunes universe, or the companies swept aside by the iPhone in 2007. A similar nervous tick is growing in the television set manufacturing business, already skating on razor-thin margins. TV makers reportedly are snooping around for details on an Apple-designed iTV that could start production in February, but is it too late for them to do anything besides be bulldozed by Apple like so many industries before them?
Jeffries analyst Peter Misek tells investors that Japan-based Sharp — which already makes iPhone and iPad displays — is tweaking its production lines to manufacture amorphous TFT LCD panels for a device referred to as the “iTV.” If no hiccups arise, production could begin February 2012 with an iTV announcement by the middle of next year.
But what about details? How much will it cost? Will an iTV somehow use iCloud services? Will we be able to stream video and control everything via iTunes? Good questions and likely the same being asked by TV makers that have “begun a scrambling search to identify what iTV will be and do,” Misek writes.
Some speculation is already out there, fodder for the growing number of people who believe in such things. For instance, before his death, Steve Jobs told autobiographer Walter Isaacson that he finally “cracked” the riddle of how to create a television that is easy to use and integrated with all of your devices. But was he speaking of iTV or another iteration of Apple TV? We’ll never know.
But what is certain is there is no huge profits in making television sets. Witness the plethora of dirt-cheap LCD TVs offered as Black Friday bait to reinvigorate slumping sales. Or consider the fact that Sony after ten years still loses money on their HDTV ivision. Apple has always shied away from making cheap products, be it a 7-inch iPad or a prepaid iPhone. Then there is the whole problem of how do you get consumers to upgrade and buy new sets. I get a new phone every couple years. The TV? It hasn’t been updated for nearly a decade.
iTV? If not a dead-end, it’s likely to be a re-run for manufacturers caught in the Apple buzz-saw. Major TV makers are about a year behind whatever the Cupertino, Calif. company has up its sleeves, the analyst figures. What about you?