The Apple iTV rumor mill reverses itself (again); no launch expected in 2014

report new apple tv set top box expected first half 2014 4k

The roller coaster ride that is the Apple iTV rumor mill took another plunge into a tunnel today. A report from Analyst Blog citing unnamed sources says the expected 4K masterpiece from the Cupertino Kids is on hold. Again. For the umpteenth time.

The report comes on the heels of an intriguing, almost too-good-to-be-true rumor we reported on just a few weeks ago, in which an analyst from Advanced Research Japan, Masahiko Ishino, unleashed a hailstorm of tidbits allegedly about the forthcoming TV. Included in the report were specific design details, a list of manufacturing partners, and a release date of the fourth quarter, 2014. Ishino even released speculation about a bargain basement price tag for the new device, starting around $1500-2500. And that’s when we got that funny taste in our mouths.

Apple has never been one to shoot for the lower price points, and we couldn’t see how its biggest product since the iPhone could undershoot current pricing from brands like Toshiba and LG, which bottom-out around $3500 for their 4K TVs.

This latest report would seem to confirm our suspicions, citing that Apple would have to find a way to lure customers away from entrenched TV manufacturers while keeping the price point of the new TV at the premium level that has allowed Apple to maintain such impressive margins on all its hardware. That logic rings especially true with TVs; with an average shelf life of 7-8 years,  Apple expects far less turnover than it finds in categories like smartphones or tablets. 

Another roadblock for the new TV comes from Apple itself, according to the report. Since streaming is readily available without a smart TV from devices like Roku, Chromecast, and Apple’s own Apple TV set-top box, smart TVs simply don’t have the same selling power they once did.

Perhaps most compelling, the report infers that selling a 4K TV in the current environment would neglect one of the most integral aspects of Apple’s winning formula: content. Every device in the Apple family has been closely tied to the ecosystem of iTunes’ “walled garden.” And right now, iTunes has no legitimate claim as the industry-leading home for streaming UHD content. For its TV to do for television shows and movies what the iPod did for music and the iPhone did for apps, the company needs to facedown streaming services with a considerable head start, like Netflix and Amazon. 

In short, the streaming video landscape is fraught in ways that make the music and apps businesses look utterly simple by comparison. Apple could probably make an impressive TV today, but until it can combine it with a content offering that both reinvigorates a flagging smart TV market and makes a compelling case against far cheaper set top boxes like Roku (and it’s own Apple TV), a shiny 4K jewel from the masters of modern tech design will not be forthcoming. 

For now, we’re probably better off trying to muster some excitement for an iWatch. 

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