Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster has had an idée fixe about Apple’s so-called iTV for so long that before Steve Jobs said he’d “cracked” the television problem, we actually thought he seemed a bit ridiculous.
In 2012, though, it’s increasingly looking like Munster is right and Apple is planning an entry into the HDTV market. In fact, according to Munster’s own sources, Apple has been contacting major TV component suppliers about securing display panels for the iTV, which he believes will launch by late 2012.
But that’s not all. Munster has some intriguing thoughts on just what the magic behind the iTV will be, and he sees three possible scenarios for content:
1. The simplest scenario – Apple could simply enable its television to manage a consumer’s live TV service from within a unified interface much like TiVo does, partnering with MSOs (i.e. the cable companies). [..] In some ways, a connected TV’s software is the biggest differentiator that Apple can bring to the table, so this option could still result in a new and fresh product for the television market. Apple could also supplement this with its iTunes Movie rental and purchase service directly on the television.
2. Live TV + Web combo – Apple could offer access to live TV from network channels in combination with other web-based video services. One middle-of-the-road option could be for Apple to deliver live TV from network channels (either over the internet or over the air) to the Apple Television. Apple could then leverage a new App Store for the Apple Television to supplement the basic live TV features with Netflix, Hulu Plus, or any content provider that chooses to build an app for the television.
3. iTunes television subscription – Apple could offer monthly subscriptions, on an a-la-carte basis, for live TV packages with content from content providers. [...] Such an offering would be unlikely given existing licensing arrangements between content providers and service providers as well as the fact that it lies outside of Apple’s core competencies, even in media.
Honestly, I think the simplest scenario is most likely to be right. Honestly, Apple’s revolutions are usually launched by seemingly small innovations centered around a more usable interface. For example, the iPhone revolutionized smartphones by adopting a touchscreen instead of physical buttons and then building the whole core OS around the concept of apps, of which telephone abilities were just one small part. When Apple enters the HDTV market, I expect them to do the same thing.