Apple television mockup by Guilherme M. Schasiepen

Piper Jaffray’s resident Apple analyst Gene Munster is arguably the most vocal proponent of an integrated high-definition television set from Apple, the mythical iTV. His old predictions were picked up by the press lately thanks to that vague Apple HD TV hint in Walter Isaacson’s authorized Steve Jobs biography, gaining more credence with both Sony and Samsung dissing the idea as old news.

Now, last we heard from Munster was in November of last year when he predicted an Apple television set within a year, costing double a comparable set. In a note to clients issued Tuesday, the analyst warned that his original timing “remains uncertain” but underscored he is still targeting “a late 2012 launch.”

More interesting is Munster’s claim that a “major TV component supplier” told him last month Apple was inquiring about “various capabilities of their television display components,” which sounds a lot like this skeptical New York Times report from October 2011. However, “Without a revamped TV content solution, we do not think Apple enters the TV market,” Munster wrote. Remaking the user interface is easy, but getting Hollywood on board will be tricky, as the Wall Street Journal warned in December.

With that in mind, Munster offers three content scenarios for the Apple television, as quoted by Fortune’s Philip Elmer-Dewitt…

1. The simplest scenario – Apple could simply enable its television to manage a consumer’s live TV service from within a unified interface much like TiVo does, partnering with MSOs (i.e. the cable companies). [..] In some ways, connected TV’s software is the biggest differentiator that Apple can bring to the table, so this option could still result in a new and fresh product for the television market. Apple could also supplement this with its iTunes Movie rental and purchase service directly on the television.

2. Live TV + Web combo – Apple could offer access to live TV from network channels in combination with other web-based video services. One middle-of-the-road option could be for Apple to deliver live TV from network channels (either over the internet or over the air) to the Apple Television. Apple could then leverage a new App Store for the Apple Television to supplement the basic live TV features with Netflix, Hulu Plus, or any content provider that chooses to build an app for the television.

3. iTunes television subscription - Apple could offer monthly subscriptions, on an a-la-carte basis, for live TV packages with content from content providers. [...] Such an offering would be unlikely given existing licensing arrangements between content providers and service providers as well as the fact that it lies outside of Apple’s core competencies, even in media.

The only “slight” hurdle we see with content delivery over the Internet is those dreaded data caps and bandwidth throttling…

We have shortened the above scenarios for your reading convenience. If you are interested in the full quotes, make sure to check them out over at Fortune’s Apple 2.0 blog.


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