Apple gives up on building TVs, but not on changing TV

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Apple TV Looks to Be the Focus at WWDC 2015

By JANKO ROETTGERS, Variety.com

Your next TV set won't be built by Apple: The Cupertino company gave up on the idea of building televisions some time last year, the Wall Street Journal reported late Monday. The news has even Piper Jaffray's Apple analyst Gene Munster, who had been predicting an Apple TV for years, giving up on his dream. But it doesn't mean that Apple is turning away from TV altogether.

Apple has been working on TV sets for many years, according to the report, and even had a prototype for a translucent TV display about 10 years ago. In the end, the technology to power such a display proved unfeasible; the company later was looking into producing 4K TVs, with plans to integrate cameras for FaceTime video calling.

However, the Journal reports that these features simply didn't seem compelling enough to make a splash in the market -- a market that has been plagued by razor-thin margins. Apple would have needed a product that would have warranted a significant premium price to get anywhere close to the margins the company achieves with products like the iPhone or its Macbooks.

Reality set in for Munster as well Tuesday, who conceded in a research note that there won't be an Apple TV any time soon:

"Our latest thinking prior to this story was that Apple would launch a television in 2016. Based on this report, we no longer expect a television to launch indefinitely."

Then again, maybe Apple doesn't need to launch a TV set to change TV. The company is reportedly working on the next generation of its Apple TV set-top box, which could be unveiled as early as during next month's WWDC conference. The new Apple TV will integrate with Apple's Siri personal assistant, and offer third-party developers an easier path to bring apps to the platform, according to a report from 9t5Mac, which also notes that consumers will be able to use their Apple Watch as a remote control for the device.

Apple TV hasn't seen any major changes in three years, and and the market for streaming devices has gotten a lot more crowded since: Both Roku and Google's Chromecast have stolen away significant market share from Apple TV, which also has seen competition from Amazon's Fire TV, as well as Google's Android TV initiative.

Still, the ultimate challenge for Apple may not be producing a better box, but offering new ways to access content on the TV. The company is reportedly also still looking to launch its own TV service, which is likely going to look a bit like Dish's Sling TV or Sony's Vue service, streaming live and on-demand programming through an interface that's more compelling than a traditional cable TV service. Apple could unveil that service in June as well, but isn't expected to launch it until later this year.

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