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Apple Gears Up to Create a Star TV

By Richard Adhikari MacNewsWorld ECT News Network
Dec 19, 2011 12:14 PM PT

Apple is holding talks with media executives to discuss the future of television, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal.

Apple Gears Up to Create a Star TV

It's also allegedly working on providing wireless streaming capabilities, voice and motion controls, and features that enable the sharing of content across multiple devices.

"We believe it's very likely that Apple's working on a set-top box or iTV or whatever you'd like to call it, because the TV is the next growth area for Apple, and it's the only one screen they haven't conquered yet," Jia Wu, a senior analyst at Strategy Analytics, told MacNewsWorld. The other three screens are the smartphone, the tablet and the personal computer.

"TV would be a logical next step, given Apple's history with innovations in entertainment," Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT, told MacNewsWorld.

Apple did not respond to requests for comment for this story.

A Quick Refresher on Apple TV

As it's currently sold, Apple TV is a digital media receiver that gets content from various sources, including the iTunes Store, Netflix and YouTube, then pumps it into a high-definition widescreen TV.

It streams rented content from iTunes and videos from computers or iDevices through AirPlay.

AirPlay allows for wireless streaming content between devices.

Competitors to Apple TV include Google TV, Western Digital's Media Center, Roku and Boxee.

"The current Apple TV is just a box that lets you rent TV or movie shows and stream content from iDevices to a TV screen," Strategy Analytics' Wu pointed out. "It's not very compelling."

Thinking About Tomorrow's TV Today

The standard TV set is becoming commoditized, and there's "very little differentiation among them this year," Andrew Eisner, director of community and content at Retrevo, told MacNewsWorld.

"We think it's time for the real smart TV to come in, where the software makes the [differentiation]," Eisner said.

There will either be a "shift towards partnerships or software giants such as Apple, Microsoft and Google bringing out TVs with smarts built into them or TVs where the smarts are provided through a tablet," Eisner predicted.

It's likely that Apple "will probably make some great deals with content providers like they've done in the past and make some great progress with the user interface and come out with all guns blazing and show the world how to make TV," Eisner suggested.

Apple will probably come up with "something that is easier [to use] and better integrated than anyone else, from command through to content," Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group, suggested. "If it isn't, I'd expect it to fail."

A "big next-generation iPad on your wall would be the closest thing to what [Apple] are contemplating," Enderle speculated. This "would likely integrate with the iPad or iPhone through AirPlay for control, enhanced experiences, alerts, and navigation between programs, and become a consumption engine for iTunes and the iCloud," Enderle told MacNewsWorld.

However, video entertainment "is a far more diverse and better funded business than the music industry, and there are any number of major players who have little, if any, reason to embrace Apple, and have the means at their disposal to cripple it, at least," Pund-IT's King warned.

What a New Type of TV Needs

Motion sensors are likely to become a must-have for the next generation of TV sets.

"Google TV's failure last year showed consumers don't want to use a keyboard to type in terms for a search because it can get quite complex, so the best option now is motion-sensing technology," Strategy Analytics' Wu said.

Voice control, "which is very important and is very easy for consumers to use," might also become a standard feature, Wu suggested. Microsoft "is leading the market at this moment, but Apple, with Siri, will also be a player," Wu added.

However, more work needs to be done on voice commands because there's a tendency for the voice control to accept things said by characters in TV programs, Enderle pointed out.

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