Apple TV Is Coming -- Straight From Microsoft and Netflix

The Wall Street Journal says that Apple (NAS: AAPL) is bringing television sets to market. Cupertino executives have been talking up media brass to lay the groundwork for an Apple-branded TV.

The Journal's sources say that Apple is being vague about it all, and hasn't discussed licensing movies or shows for whatever's up its sleeve. But it seems like the Apple TV -- TV set, that is, not another set-top box -- would respond to gesture and voice commands, and manage your infotainment flow accordingly. If that sounds familiar, the Netflix (NAS: NFLX) app for the Microsoft (NAS: MSFT) Xbox Kinect now allows users to manipulate content via motion and voice controls.

You could argue that Apple's Siri assistant is a perfect fit for the living room. And building all of this into the TV set rather than relying on third-party gaming consoles (with a Xbox Live Gold account adding $5 on top of your monthly Netflix fees, natch) might be a game-changer.

But then again, you're asking us to give up our trusty Sony, Olevia, and Panasonic sets in favor of another overpriced piece of the Apple ecosystem. If you're a die-hard fan, it might not be much of a stretch -- but at what point do you look around at your iPads, iPhones, iTunes libraries, and Macbooks, and decide that one more Apple gadget would be one too many?

Short of the house it entertains or the car that drove it home from the electronics store, a big-screen TV is likely one of the most expensive things the average American owns. That's why set-top boxes are valuable -- plug and play, no need to throw out your old television to make it work.

Baking Siri and iTunes together inside an actual television is new only in the integration of the parts. Each of the pieces have been on the market for many moons already, under the wings of some of Apple's fiercest rivals no less. Google (NAS: GOOG) has failed to make Sony-branded, Android-powered, smart TVs a consumer staple. Prior to his passing, Steve Jobs celebrated that he "finally cracked" the TV market. If he was talking about this thing, I'm afraid Steve was wrong for once.

You really don't have to pick a horse in the digital media race. Some companies ride both the Android and Apple ponies equally well. Check out 3 ideas on how to play this race in 2012, courtesy of Fool analysts.

At the time this article was published Fool contributor Anders Bylund owns shares of Netflix and Google but holds no other position in any of the companies mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple, Microsoft, and Google. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Google, Apple, Microsoft, and Netflix. We have also recommended creating bull call spread positions in Apple and Microsoft. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinion, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. Check out Anders' holdings and bio, or follow him on Twitter and Google+. We have a disclosure policy.

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