Panjiva, a New York firm that tracks global trading data, has published a blog post regarding bill-of-lading (which is a detailed list of a shipment of goods in receipt form) data that indicates Apple has taken delivery of 40.3 metric tons of what are described as “set-top boxes” or “set-top box with communication function.” Now what do you suppose that means?
We can think of more than just a few folks (including ourselves) who would love for this to indicate that a television from Apple may be announced at the company’s event on September 10, but based on the data, that is unlikely. While a TV could, in very loose and archaic terms (and Chinese manufacturer’s English could certainly be described as loose), be described as a box that sits atop something, it is far more likely that the product referred to in this particular bill of lading is a set-top box in the more conventional sense of the term. In other words: Expect a new Apple TV set-top box to be announced next week.
There’s no guarantee we’d ever hear about a bill of lading for several metric tons of a “display product” or even something as blatant as a “television with communication function,” so perhaps that has also taken place. We’ll soon know. But, for now, it appears clear that Apple does have a new Apple TV box to share with the world.
There have been several developments lately suggesting Apple has something big up its sleeve where TV is concerned – its recent acquisition of video discovery service Matcha, it’s rumored discussions with Time Warner Cable (most Smart TV platforms already include a TWC app), a recently granted patent that would turn an iPhone into a universal remote, a rumored ad-skipping feature, and the recent (albeit late) addition of HBO Go and WatchESPN apps to its existing platform – but none of that means an actual TV is coming.
Even if one is on the way this year, Apple is not going to abandon its Apple TV set-top box. That little box is Apple’s gateway into every home that wouldn’t buy an actual TV made by Apple. Everything in the Apple TV will end up getting ported over to an actual television, anyway.
So while we are skeptical that Apple will show us a television next week, we do think it will show us its vision for how television should work, and that’s a big step in a new direction for the company. It will also be a shot across the bows of Google, Intel and others who are working on their own versions of the television’s future.