HolidayBuyer's Guide

That Apple TV set: Wait till ... the year after next year?

Piper Jaffray's Gene Munster insists that the evidence points to an Apple television in the offing, a phenomenon that is "quite possible in 2016."

Apple's current remote control.
Photo by Josh Lowensohn/CNET

Apple has finally unveiled a pair of big-screened iPhones and the no-longer-a-rumor Apple Watch. So what could be on the company's radar as the next big product category?

In an investor note released late Tuesday, analyst Gene Munster returned to his mantra of an Apple television set. The analyst has been forecasting such a product for the past few years, but so far Apple has yet to produce one, instead continuing to focus on mobile devices. The company has offered the Apple TV set-top box for many years. But should it ever hit the market, the much-rumored Apple television would likely take shape as a full-blown HDTV set with access to traditional and online entertainment, apps and other content.

"Given how many times we have predicted a television and have yet to see one launch, it may be easy to dismiss our insistence of the television," Munster said. "However, as recently as 9/12 on Charlie Rose, CEO Tim Cook said that the TV is a category in which Apple has great interest in, given the experience is 'stuck in the 70s.' Cook also noted that Apple has 'taken a stab' at TV with Apple TV and claimed that it is an area Apple continues to look at. We also note that in Steve Jobs' biography in 2011, Jobs stated that he felt he finally cracked the TV. We believe the evidence remains that something is there, the question remains when."

But the TV business is a tough one, and Apple would first have to establish the necessary agreements with cable companies and other content providers. Previous reports have suggested that Apple has run into challenges in its negotiations with those businesses, which want to control their own turf and may not be sufficiently motivated to cut deals with Apple.

Assuming an Apple television ever gets past the vaporware stage, when could it actually hit the market? Munster has nixed 2015 as a possible launch year as Apple will likely be busy ramping up its Apple Pay mobile payments system and launching its smartwatch. Instead, the analyst believes 2016 could finally be the year that Apple enters the TV trade.

"It would seem that an Apple television is unlikely in 2015 and quite possible in 2016," Munster said. "We believe Apple still has work to do in terms of developing content relationships and developing a gaming platform. We also believe that ultimately the television can become a home hub as the connected home evolves. Thus the next step for Apple with regard to the television may likely be the introduction of an updated Apple TV box that includes some gaming and possibly Siri."

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