Will There Be an Apple TV Set in Two Years?

Apple TVObviously Apple is not oblivious to the fact that television as we know it is undergoing a dramatic shift — but as the Apple TV set-top box just languishes with no apparent direction, we wonder what exactly is the company’s living room strategy is. Piper Jaffray senior analyst Gene Muster thinks he knows what going on in Cupertino — he thinks we’ll see an Apple TV set by 2011 (hat tip to Fortune’s Brainstorm Tech blog).

Munster lays out a trio of newteevee tricks forthcoming from Apple. He predicts:

  1. A new Apple TV set-top box with TV input and DVR capabilities in the next few months.
  2. The company a subscription-based offering for TV content. Munster writes, “Apple could leverage its deep library of content with many network and cable channel content owners to provide unlimited access to a sub-library of its TV shows for a standard monthly fee ($30 to $40 per month). Such a product would effectively replace a consumer’s monthly cable bill (~$85/month) and offer access to current and older episodes of select shows on select channels.”
  3. An Apple TV set that wirelessly syncs up with iPods, iPhones, and Macs

We’re skeptical of a subscription service as outlined here. Apple may have relationships with networks, but those networks are hopping into bed with cable companies for TV Everywhere. Since cable networks get a big chunk of their revenue from cable operators, it’s doubtful they’d do anything to rock the boat. Plus, anyone remember the scuffle Apple got into with NBC?

As far as an actual Apple TV set, Michael Wolf over at our GigaOM Pro research service recently wrote a post on what’s next for Apple’s living room strategy and he just doesn’t see it. In response to Munster’s report, Michael emailed us:

“I think that the HDTV business in a commodity game at this point and one that Apple would be smart to stay away from. Apple can play in the living room, but to do so they don’t need to own the display, which is best left to low-cost providers with large-scale, low-cost manufacturing capacity like Vizio.”

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