Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

Lots of Smoke, But No Fire (Yet)

There’s been a lot of chatter about a new Apple TV for a while now, but recent stories seem to be painting a (slightly) clearer picture. Today, Bloomberg — who have apparently recently redesigned their website to be 75% more reader-hostile — published a pretty big scoop by Adam Satariano and Edmund Lee:

Apple Inc. is planning to introduce a new Apple TV set-top box and is negotiating with Time Warner Cable Inc. and other potential partners to add video content, according to people with knowledge of the matter. […]

The new device, which plugs into a television set, will have a faster processor than the previous version and an upgraded interface to make it easier for customers to navigate between TV shows, movies and other online content, one person said. An agreement with Time Warner Cable would mark the first such deal with a cable or satellite company.

A couple of things seem to be getting clearer:

  1. This won’t be a dedicated TV set, which makes sense: TV sets are expensive but relatively low-margin, and people don’t replace them that often. There’s no great reason for Apple to build their own set.
  2. This box is focused on expansive professional content. The existing Apple TV is great for YouTube or Vimeo videos, or content from specific providers like Red Bull or the Wall Street Journal, but it’s too cumbersome to start watching a movie or, even worse, a TV show.

But there’s one part of Satariano and Lee’s story that doesn’t quite stack up:

Apple is aiming to unveil the device by April and have it available for sale by the Christmas holidays, […]

The April introduction seems realistic, but the other part doesn’t smell right. Assuming the “by the Christmas holidays” bit means October at the latest, that’s a six month lag time between introduction and release. Only two other products have equalled that length of lag time: the new Mac Pro and the first iPhone, both of which required further development because of their superlative complexity (Apple also required FCC approval for the iPhone). An Apple TV set top box doesn’t seem to fit this mould.

Update: Jay Tyler pointed out that the original Apple TV was introduced six months prior to availability because it wasn’t done yet, and the sneak peek fit with that event’s theme. But why would Apple create six months of awkward Apple TV sales, where nobody buys the current model because everyone’s waiting? I think Jonathan Geller makes the possible best case for why, but it still smells funny.