But, rumors also continue to swirl around the possibility of Apple making a far bigger and revolutionary splash -- i.e., the company's announcement of its long-anticipated "iTV" -- an all-in-one beautiful flat screen TV (here is one such highly circulated report from 9to5Mac which is quoted by FierceOnlineVideo).
Do I believe this rumor? No. March 7 won't be the day. But, make no mistake -- the iTV is coming ... and likely later this year. I have always believed this to be the case. Apple's entry into the "real" TV market -- i.e., beyond its current Apple TV "hobby" -- is inevitable. It is Apple's next great frontier. And, just look at the pent-up demand for such a move? It is clear from all the rampant speculation that -- no matter what it is (and even with a hefty sticker price) -- iTVs would fly off the shelves. Apple wouldn't even need to market the thing -- we all do the job for them!
When the iTV does launch, as I have written previously, it will seamlessly marry the hardware (TV) with the services (programming). That means it will need to feature a deep pool of TV and motion picture content -- including live linear TV like ESPN. Will Apple be able to negotiate relevant licensing deals to make that happen in this time-frame? Maybe. But, word from the street thus far is that Apple has had its challenges in that regard with the major media companies.
Ryan Lawler of Gigaom has a different "take", which seems highly plausible. In a recent blog post -- titled "Apple's iTV and the carrier question" -- Lawler recounts recent reports from Bloomberg that Apple may get access to critical programming by partnering with the major carriers (including AT&T and Verizon). As Lawler points out, via such partnerships, Apple immediately gets access to all the content it needs to truly make the iTV a home-run consumer experience. No fuss, no muss. Sure, Apple isn't in complete control with this kind of strategy -- and Apple loves its control -- but, Apple still can control the consumer experience of accessing that content.
And, in the end, remember -- for Apple, the hardware is "the thing". Software and services -- including TV programming -- are simply the Trojan Horse to sell more high margin iTVs. Partnering with the operators also gives Apple far greater distribution and reach -- as well as potential/likely operator subsidies a la the iPhone.
And, that has worked pretty well for Apple ...