Maybe, maybe not. That seems to be how Apple (Nasdaq:AAPL) operates, although some of that is changing. Apple is finding it increasingly difficult to keep a secret these days. With everybody from the smallest tech blogger to the largest media outlets fighting to get the first glimpse of a new Apple product, "anonymous" overseas informants in Apple's supply chain have leaked everything from pictures of pieces and parts of Apple products to the newest patents filed by Apple. The new Apple TV, called the iTV by some, should not be confused with the Apple TV that is already on the market. Now in its second generation, the current version of Apple TV connects to your TV and allows you to download movies, stream music and use your TV as a monitor for your MacBook among other features. Although the second generation sold 2.7 million units in the first five months of 2012, by Apple standards, that is not wildly impressive.
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If we assume that the iTV does (or will) exist, it may use many of the features that come with the current Apple TV, but insiders are hoping that the iTV is actually a TV. The Wall Street Journal recently reported that Apple is working with Sharp (OTC:SHCAY) and Hon Hai Precision (better known as Foxconn) to produce a prototype, flat-screen HD TV, but it is unclear how far along Apple is in the process. Some analysts believe that the Apple TV would likely hit shelves in 2014 or 2015, while others point out that rumors of an actual TV set have been swirling since 2009, making all of the buzz and industry noise largely that: noise.
The Problem with a TV
Some say that it is hard to believe that Apple would simply build a TV with an Apple logo and some nice-looking Apple icons on it. That is not Apple's style, according to a Forbes article. Apple wants to disrupt the market with everything it does. Think of the iPod, iPhone and iPad. These products were new and innovative, and along with these products came deals with the music and cellular industry that would make it advantageous to Apple not only to sell the product, but profit off the industry.
In order to do that with a TV, Apple will have to strike lucrative deals with cable and satellite providers, content creators and others in the TV business. If history is any guide, coming to any kind of "disruptive" deal like it did with the music and cellular industry will be quite the tall order. Consumers who have read the scrolling messages on their TVs about content negotiations know that TV execs do not play well with each other or with others.
Not everybody agrees. PC Magazine suggests that all Apple has to do is make a better TV. Maybe something lighter and more easily hung on a wall even if the TV is large. To the list of improvements, the magazine adds OLEDs for a sharper picture and a way to receive signals wirelessly, cutting down on the need for the mass of cables that now sits behind most TVs.
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What About a Set Top Box?
CNN recently reported that Steve Jobs believed that producing an actual TV was a low-margin, slow-turnover business and isn't exactly what Apple is looking for out of its next big item. CNN also reminds us that many of Apple's best products are innovations of earlier products. The iPad came from the iPod Touch and the iPod Touch evolved from the iPhone, for example. Maybe the Apple TV that everybody is waiting for is already sitting next to millions of viewers' TVs. Maybe it will be a large-scale improvement on the current Apple TV. Like most things Apple, however, it is only a rumor.
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The Bottom Line
Long before announcement of the iPhone 5 and iPad Mini, consumers knew a lot about the products due to leaks in Apple's massive international supply chain. It is for this reason that many now believe the Apple TV is not close to being complete. If it were in production, we would likely know about it.