In the recently published bio of Steve Jobs, Walter Isaacson described the future plans for an Apple-branded television. It's ambitious, but not entirely unexpected. For several years now, Apple has been producing the Apple TV entertainment device. Considering their focus on consumer products, it's a good strategic move.
The only question is, should Apple actually build and sell a television?
Don't get me wrong. I think the product will likely be an attractive, quality device that will look stunning and be easy to use. But is it really necessary? The TV market is already saturated with numerous manufacturers that build inexpensive units that look gorgeous. Why reinvent the wheel?
Of course, it goes without saying that Apple is famous for reinventing the wheel and making a killing doing it. The plan to use the Siri technology from the iPhone 4S is a great decision. It's still new, and will have some growing pains. But the ability to speak in plain English to your video entertainment device is a big step. Before VCRs went extinct, there were plenty of people that couldn't get the display to stop flashing 12:00. Reducing the complexity of using an entertainment system is a major step forward.
The displays that Apple uses in its products are excellent. The Apple Cinema displays are stunning. But they're also quite expensive. You can buy a similar monitor from a competing manufacturer for less than half the price. Unless Apple provides some amazing incentive in terms of features and service, it's possible that an overpriced TV product from them will not sell very well--especially not in an over-stressed economy.
I'm not saying that Apple should give up on a television product. I simply think that they should focus on an expanded product built on the existing Apple TV platform. Make it bigger. Add PVR capabilities. Put Siri in it. Then allow it to be plugged into a TV of our own choosing. The market for televisions is huge because there are so many different categories that consumers want, based on size, location, affordability, and so forth.
Apple isn't known for having numerous different options for their product lines. Are they going to want to produce a dozen different TV products? Will they be able to compete price wise? I honestly can't say. They might sell enough to garner a niche market. I think, however, we may have to actually wait until they bring something to market before we can get a better sense of how this will play out.
I think the best direction would be to have a trial run of an Apple television, and expand Apple TV devices that hook up to existing TVs developed in tandem with them. That way Apple could satisfy both the high end and cost-conscious shoppers.