Apple's rumored plans for an integrated Apple TV have been long in the making, although the Cupertino company has yet to come up with a definite device and definite content partnerships. Recent activities indicate, however, that Apple is likely to push ahead with plans to launch its own streaming video service within the year, and will be aggressively fighting it out with content providers.
Even Apple co-founder and ex-CEO Steve Jobs believed TV was the next big thing for Apple before he died -- he said as much in the popular 2011 biography written by Walter Isaacson. "I finally cracked it," he said, which might refer to how Apple might marry its latest intuitive speech-powered user interfaces with streaming content. Suppliers from Asia have been leaking indications that Apple is also shopping for integrated internet-TV technologies. However, Apple TV looks to remain the same set-top box it was when it launched, although with a few refinements.
Apple Wants to Own TV
Content providers have likewise proved to be an obstacle for Apple's plans to launch an integrated TV service. Apple reportedly wants to offer TV channels as apps for its iOS- and OS X-powered devices. This would be in addition to its offering TV shows via iTunes, although plans for streaming video will include live streaming of shows as they air, not after the fact.
But, media executives are balking at Apple's quest to control everything. "They want everything for nothing," says one media executive. Apple wants to "decide the price...[and] decide the content," says another exec in a New York Post interview.
Apple has recently been in talks with cable providers to push its own Apple devices as a potential replacement for the clunky cable boxes that operators currently offer. Apple supposedly wanted to "manage bandwidth across the TV and broadband pipeline," sources say. Cable providers reportedly shunned Apple, though, for fear that the world's biggest tech company might eat a big piece of the US$ 150 billion a year pay-TV business.
Cable companies are already starting to offer their own streaming video businesses, such as Comcast's Streampix and an upcoming service by Time Warner. Time will tell whether these will be viable in the market. At this point, Apple is reportedly aggressively pursuing deals with carriers and bandwidth providers like AT&T and Verizon, in the hopes of gaining enough traction and influence in the video-distribution field.
A New Apple TV This March?
Apple is expected to announce a new Apple TV by March 7, and all indications point to a new TV set or even an updated set-top Apple TV. But before Apple launches a new TV, it wants control of the content first, which might help make it more relevant and dominant in this business, much like how the market for iOS apps has become a tightly-controlled -- albeit successful -- ecosystem.
Will Apple wrest control from the TV moguls, much like it did in the music business? We might find out within the week.