Tech World Awaits a Breakthrough for Apple TV

AppleEver curious about what the next chapter holds for Apple, some in the tech world are predicting a plot twist: a breakthrough with Apple TV.

Some analysts and developers say Apple seems close to cracking the code for TV, a device that has long stumped the company.

Investors and Apple fans have been awaiting a visionary TV offering from the company ever since Steve Jobs told his biographer, Walter Isaacson, that he had finally figured out the right approach. In the years since Jobs? death, the hockey-puck-shaped gadget, released in 2007, has had few meaningful hardware updates and remained mainly an accessory to other Apple devices. But Apple chief executive Tim Cook told journalist Charlie Rose last month that the company has ?great interest? in TV, reigniting hopes among analysts that the company is close to a more transformative product.

The Wall Street Journal reported this year that Apple was negotiating with Comcast to deliver Apple?s TV service over a dedicated part of Comcast?s wires, in addition to haggling with media companies for TV programming rights. The talks have been slow to bear fruit.

Fighting to win back young viewers who question the need for cable, pay-TV providers and media companies might be inclined to hear what Apple has to offer. But the companies are loath to erode their profit margins by giving Apple a cut, said Mike Paxton, an analyst at SNL Kagan.

What?s more, pay-TV providers are comfortable with Apple TV as an accessory to their set-top boxes, but not something that displaces them, Paxton said.

?That set-top box is their piece of real estate in today?s digital home,? he said.

As Apple plots its next move in TV, other Silicon Valley titans have rushed in. Roku has been a player in TV streaming since 2008, and Google and Amazon have entered the field with Chromecast and Fire TV, respectively. That?s made for a crowded field for the $99-and-under devices, said Joel Espelien, a senior adviser at The Diffusion Group, which studies the future of TV and video.

?The competition has gotten quite a bit more robust in this space,? he said. ?Apple is going to have to bring its real strengths to bear.?

Even if it can?t break the logjam with pay-TV providers and media companies, Apple can spruce up its product with some simple fixes, such as improving the Wi-Fi connection and offering more apps, particularly for gaming, analysts say. Original content could also set Apple apart, Espelien said. Pointing to Netflix?s announcement last month that it will release a sequel to the martial arts film ?Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,? he said Apple should seek similar deals for iTunes.

?Without something really compelling on iTunes, Apple TV is never going to reach its potential,? he said.

Hollywood aside, some analysts see Apple TV as a device of key strategic importance for Apple. In many households, the TV is the only gadget that is always in the same place, always plugged in, always connected to broadband and always on ? making it the perfect hub for a smart home, Espelien said. But with only about 20 million gadgets sold at last count, Apple still has some work to do.

?First, Apple TV has got to succeed as a TV device,? Espelien said.

Source: MCT Information Services