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An Actual Apple Television? What Are The Odds?

Steve Anderson

Most of us are familiar with Apple TV (the hardware) as well as Apple TV+ (the streaming service). We know that Apple works well with most current televisions out there. But what if Apple actually decided to make its own television sets? Is this even possible? For a company with the kind of cash on hand it has, very few things aren’t possible to some degree. But what are the odds? Let’s try and pin it down.

Why Apple Might Produce a Television

There are several points that actually work in Apple’s favor as far as building its own television goes.

It’s already sort of doing it. A quick look at Apple's website shows an option to buy Apple displays. A 32-inch Retina display, Apple-branded, can be had for the staggering price of $4,999 for standard glass and $5,999 for nano-texture glass. The price is nightmarish, but the display is a 6K Retina display, which puts it ahead of quite a few models on the market. To see these expanded out to larger, living room-sized displays is likely a matter of engineering rather than impossibility.

It’s used to subcontracting. Even if Apple didn’t necessarily build its own displays, it could readily subcontract out to get an Apple-branded display from a white-label source. LG, for example, offers Apple-compatible displays on Apple’s own website. Two different models are available, including an UltraFine 4K display for $699.95 and an UltraFine 5K display for $1,299.95. With LG already making televisions, devoting a portion of its line to subcontracting to Apple may be worthwhile.

It’s used to operating in unusual spaces. Apple’s aspirations of joining the automobile market are well-known. The last update was heard a little over a month ago. Apple also has a laundry list of unusual patents. One such list of same comes from way back in 2012, and features such baffling items as the “magic glove” for cold weather touchscreen use as well as the glass staircase seen in Apple stores.

Smart TVs are ubiquitous. Not so long ago, we offered up a list of ways to protect yourself against being spied on by your smart TV. Since Apple already has a streaming box and a streaming platform, the notion of building it directly into a television is hardly out of line. It also makes a certain sense for the company that coined the term “genius bar” to denote its help desk operations to be involved in smart TV operations.

Why Apple Might Not Produce a Television

For every reason Apple might have to get in on the market, there is another reason to stay out.

The market is saturated. From Samsung to LG, from TCL to Sony, the smart TV market is laden with competitors. Apple trying to get into this market would have to spend substantially on marketing to try and break inertia. While it might be able to use a penetration market strategy—where it deliberately under-prices a product to attempt to seize a starting supply of market share—there’s no guarantee it would be sufficiently effective to get customers out from their current brand of choice. And speaking of which….

The Apple walled garden doesn’t mean what it used to. It used to be that Apple bringing out a new product would prompt lines around the block at Apple stores. That effect has faded over time; reports going as far back as 2016 show that interest in buying a new Apple device is down. Two years ago, Apple enthusiasts were holding out for a 5G iPhone instead of just buying the new iPhone without the connectivity, noted a CNBC report. Apple itself even planned to cut back supplies of the iPhone 13 in light of the ongoing global chip shortage.

Apple is less about hardware now. While Apple will likely continue to bring out hardware for the foreseeable future, Apple is placing a lot less value on its hardware production. It’s already seen the value of focusing on software and services; back in 2018, Intego noted that the percentage of Apple revenue that was generated by services and software was on the rise. This makes sense on a visceral level; software and services require little in the way of inventory costs, and they’re not subject to shortages much the way hardware is, as we’ve seen with the ongoing chip shortage.

It defies the basic thrust of Apple. Apple has been focused on mobility for quite some time. Even its foray into smart cars is in keeping with that; what is a car but mobility for humans? Sure, it still has desktop computers, but much of Apple these days is highly portable. Why would Apple branch out into a market that goes against some of its most basic principles? Especially one where it’s already going to be at a disadvantage on several fronts anyway?

So What Are the Odds?

So what are the odds that we’ll see an Apple television? They seem roughly even. For every reason to get in, there’s a reason to stay out to balance it. Apple has made a long career of unpredictability and innovation, so counting them out outright is a bad move. However, the chances of an Apple television actually hitting shelves doesn’t seem so great. The reasons to stay out are a bit more compelling, especially given the current market environment. Apple has a lot of winning products already; there’s no need to try and breach a completely different market that it doesn’t need to.

Related: 10 Best TV Shows on Apple TV+


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