• Analyst Keeps Insisting That Apple Get Into TV

    You have to say this guy is consistent.

    Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster has been telling pretty much anybody who will listen that Apple is going to make its own TV and it's going to be awesome. Back in the middle of last year, he was touting an upgraded Apple TV that would have its own App Store for games and movies. Then, when that product did not appear, he began talking about a new model of Internet-based subscription TV, pretty much the same idea that Apple has apparently epically FAILed to put together because it can't get licensing arrangements with the major studios. But Munster is still at it, telling his clients today that Apple is two to four years away from an internet-connected HDTV.

    Any doubt about Apple's future in television could pretty well have been laid to rest by Apple COO Tim Cook, Steve Jobs's second-in-command and almost certainly the man who will be next chief executive of Apple. Cook called Apple TV "a hobby," and flatly stated that "we have no interest in being in the TV market" because "the go-to-market model is difficult." So with a record of failure, and those simple arguments against the idea, why is Munster still so gung-ho about the prospect of Apple selling TVs?

    One simple answer: money. Big, big piles of it.

    As Munster told his clients, "home entertainment is a $31.8 (billion) market in the US and the company has a history of succeeding by redefining mature markets." Apple would use its Jobsy magic to redefine the extremely mature US television market by introducing something called the "connected-HDTV:" a high-definition television set with broadband access and a simple user interface. The killer app that would drive the new product to success would be the elusive iTunes TV Pass, which Munster says would offer unlimited access to live and recorded programming and would be available for from $50 to $90 per month.

    So what's stopping Apple from mopping up all this cash? Munster defines the "Primary Hurdle" as being the "MSOs" or Multiple Systems Operators - such as Time Warner Cable, Cablevision, Comcast and Cox Communications in the US, Rogers Communications, Videotron and Shaw Communications in Canada or Virgin Media in the UK - that provide huge revenue streams to the TV and movie studios. The majors have been brushing off Apple's overtures to avoid killing the goose that lays so many golden eggs, but Munster thinks that Apple's "125 (million) addressable iTunes accounts" might be enough to move the content providers away from the MSOs.

    It's still fantasyland stuff, but Munster believes that the 74 million iPhones and iPod touches - along with the unknown millions of iPads about to hit the streets - will be too tempting of a potential market for the studios to walk away from. And he notes COO Tim Cook's statement that the company is continuing to invest in Apple TV because "we fundamentally believe there is something there for us in the future."
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