Apple 2.0

Covering the business that Steve Jobs built

Piper Jaffray: Apple is already building prototype TV sets

October 24, 2011: 6:22 AM ET

The solution Steve Jobs said he "finally cracked" could be a $6 billion business by 2014

Click to enlarge. Source: http://www.patentlyapple.com

In a note to clients released Monday, Piper Jaffray's Gene Munster seizes on remarks attributed to Steve Jobs in the biography published overnight as "another data point" to support a thesis he's been championing since 2009.

"I'd like to create an integrated television set," Jobs told Walter Isaacson, his authorized biographer. "It would be seamlessly synced with all of your devices and with iCloud... It will have the simplest user interface you could imagine. I finally cracked it."

A significant hurdle to a full-fledged Apple (AAPL) television set (as opposed to the Apple TV set-top box), Munster writes, is combining live television with shows previously captured on iCloud. "Perhaps this code is precisely what  Jobs believed he has 'cracked,'" Munter suggests, adding that Apple could use the new Siri voice activated system "to bolster its TV offering and simplify the chore of inputting information like show titles, or actor names, into a TV."

Munster's other TV-related data points (I quote):

  • Based on Jan-11 meetings in Asia (not with component suppliers), we believe Apple is investing in manufacturing facilities and securing supply for LCD displays. These displays could range from 3.5" mobile displays to 50" television displays.
  • More recently, in Sept-11 we met with a contact close to an Asian component supplier who indicated that prototypes of an Apple television are in the works.
  • As recently as May-11 the US Patent & Trademark Office has published Apple patents relating to television-specific technology. In an Oct-06 patent application Apple filed for patents related to software for browsing and recording live television, features most closely related to, but not currently available in, the Apple TV.
  • More recently, in US patent 7,865,927 published in Jan-11, Apple explores advanced TV broadcast menus (see image). In these patents, Apple refers to a system that could "include a set-top box with or without a digital video recorder (DVR) (or, personal video recorder (PVR). In other example implementations, a display with built-in functionality (e.g, a television)."

Bottom line, according to Munster: "We believe that of the estimated 220m flat panel TVs sold in 2012, 48% or 106m units will be internet-connected, of which Apple could sell 1.4m units. We believe an Apple Television could add $2.5b or 2% to revenue in CY12, $4.0b or 3% in CY13 and $6.0b in CY14."

Below the fold: Munster's TV spreadsheet (units and revenue in millions).

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About This Author
Philip Elmer-Dewitt
Philip Elmer-DeWitt
Editor, Apple 2.0, Fortune

Philip Elmer-DeWitt has been following Apple since 1982, first for Time Magazine, and now on the Web for Fortune.com.

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