Should Apple make a TV?

October 6, 2008

It’s a question I get asked a lot, especially by people in the press, who love all things Apple. 

The question came back up with a vengeance last week, as reporters heard of a new product from Apple called the “brick” that would be released soon. It turns out the brick may just be an innovative manufacturing process, not a product. But if I back up for a second, I want to give you a sense of the behind-the-scenes activity on something like this. Once the rumor starts, I get gentle emails from all camps in the press, ranging from bloggers to newspaper reporters, eager to sniff for anyone who has been pre-briefed on a major announcement.

Note: this just shows how little they know Apple. Apple doesn’t pre-brief. Further note for the future: if I am pre-briefed, I know how to keep a secret.

Invariably the question turns to speculation: What do you think the new product will be? What should it be? Because I’m a video guy, the conversation naturally turns to the question – should Apple make a TV?

It’s a question some people in the press apparently think Forrester has answered. I trace this to a Wall Street Journal article which tossed out casually that “Forrester throws cold water on the idea.” For the record, in our report about the future of Apple (authored by my colleague J.P. Gownder) back in May, we said these scantwords about the future of the  standalone set-top box called the Apple TV:

Apple TVs could also be integrated into an Apple HDTV product, which would leverage Apple’s competence at designing appealing, crisp, high-end LCD displays for the Macintosh. (see the May 22, 2008 report, The Future of Apple Inc.)

I think this is a very logical step — putting iTunes in the TV — for Apple to take, especially now that NBC is back in the iTunes fold. But I also think it’s a step that would not be fully exploited if Apple doesn’t adopt an ad-supported streaming model for video. Which is what I recommended every company making an over-the-top TV play do in my recent report. 

Of course, what I think doesn’t matter. What do you think? Should apple make a TV? If not, why? If so, when?