Tim Cook Vague on Apple TV Future

Apple CEO Tim Cook talked about Apple TV during a recent keynote, but remained reluctant to share concrete news on future plans.

Apple CEO Tim Cook offered some hints about the direction of Apple TV, as part of his much-circulated Feb. 14 keynote at the Goldman Sachs Technology and Internet Conference in San Francisco.

After cautioning that he €œwouldn€™t want to go into detail about future stuff,€ Cook conceded that €œwe need something that could go more main market for it to be a serious category.€ In the past, he€™s referred to Apple TV, whose latest iteration is a palm-sized device that facilitates streaming content to the user€™s television set, as a €œhobby.€

Indeed, Apple apparently regards the initiative in its current form as something less than its other devices. €œThe reason we call it a hobby is that we don€™t want to send a message to you or our shareholders that we think that the market for it is the size of our other businesses,€ he said, according to an edited transcript published by Fortune. €œWe don€™t want to send the signal that we think the leg of that stool is of equal length€ as that of the Mac, iPad and iPod businesses.

If you believe the rumors, though, Apple is prepping a device that could elevate its television aspirations to a whole new level: an actual television set, possibly for release in late 2012.

In April 2011, Jefferies & Co. analyst Peter Misek wrote that Apple could launch a subscription-based video service, possibly in the form of either a set-top box or a television set, which would inevitably go head-to-head against Google TV. A few months later, in June, Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster hypothesized that Apple was developing a full-fledged television.

€œApple may add movies and TV shows purchased or rented in iTunes to the iCloud service, which could be viewed on a TV,€ he wrote in a June 23 research note. €œApple€™s strong iOS developer community would likely jump at the chance to build apps for an Apple Television, and Apple€™s iOS users would likely jump at the chance to buy one.€

But the biggest fuel-dump on that raging fire of speculation came in October, when Walter Isaacson€™s bestselling biography of the late Steve Jobs arrived on store shelves. In that book, the Apple co-founder told his chronicler that he had €œfinally cracked€ what he saw as the most fundamental issue with televisions: making them €œsimple and elegant€ along the lines of Apple computers or media players.

It remains to be seen, however, whether those clues eventually result in an actual product on store shelves. Based on his loquacious-yet-guarded comments during his keynote, it€™s likely that any verbal slip-ups about Apple€™s plans won€™t come from Cook.

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