Apple will be adding an Apple-branded television set to its lineup by 2011, according to Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster. Such a device would have media-management features -- features currently found in the Apple TV settop box -- built into it, as well as a DVR and subscription-based content viewing, according to a research note to clients covered by AppleInsider....I can see Apple trying to partner with television producers to integrate iTunes, or rejuvenating its set-top box. But an actual Apple-branded television? I just can't see it. The "best-in-class" television hardware market is pretty narrow, and I have a hard time believing that consumers will happily jettison their, let's say, $2,500+ televisions every three or four years when the CPU's, RAM and hard drives prove inadequate for the next generation of TV operating systems, or when parts necessary to "Apple TV" but extraneous to the operation of the television start to fail.
"We see potential for Apple to offer best-in-class software and hardware and charge a premium," Mr. Munster wrote.
I recently purchased a television, the first new television I've ever bought. I got a clearance model. It included a notice that it had built-in support for an online service that was no longer available. Brilliant, building that technology right into the TV and remote. Boy, that worked out. (I mean, in a sense it did - you don't really notice that the feature's missing, and its absence probably helped me get a really good discount, but you get my meaning.)
I do think it's likely that the world of televisions and the world of computers will continue to merge, with more streamed content and content purchased through sites like iTunes being watched on televisions. Apple's never been good at sharing, but perhaps they'll partner with some television manufacturers to offer an "Apple Inside"-type of feature - let the third party build the technology into its set, and let it display an Apple logo in the manner of the "Intel Inside" campaign. But if you're planning on keeping your television for a good many years, or if you're planning on using a variety of competing online services through your TV, I suspect you'll be much better served by a set-top box, or even hooking an inexpensive computer up to your television, rather than paying a premium for technology that is likely to be extinct long before your TV itself stops working.
Given my track record on anticipating Apple's moves, though, many will take this post as proof that Apple's going into the TV business. ;-)