With Apple's unveiling yesterday of its super high-resolution 27-inch LED Cinema Display, the company is once again tantalizing the market with just how close it could be to introducing a high-end connected TV. The new 27-inch display is officially positioned to connect to Mac laptops and takes the place of existing 24-inch and 30-inch models. It comes with 2560x1440 resolution with a 16:9 glass display.
I haven't seen the product yet, but no doubt it's gorgeous. And that of course leads to the TV speculation. A few relatively simple enhancements and repositioning spin and voila, Apple is in the TV business, with another multi-billion dollar market opportunity. The connected TV market is poised for growth, with many new TV sporting Ethernet or WiFi connections. And the market for connected devices to bring existing TVs online is exploding with choices such as Blu-ray players, gaming consoles, standalone devices, etc. priming consumers' appetites for a product from Apple.
With such a swirl of activity it's interesting to speculate on what's holding Apple back. Certainly it's not fear of entering an unrelated market; the company has more than proven its mettle by going into unrelated digital music player and mobile phone areas and wildly succeeding. Rather I'm guessing the big concern is how to extract the "Apple premium" in a low-margin, super-competitive business. It's possible already to find sub-$400 27-inch LCD HDTVs, making Apple's new $999 display look very expensive by comparison.
However, Apple has a strong track record of finding ways to get its premium. When it comes to TVs, it could offer seamless integration with its "i" devices, access to apps and iTunes and other multi-platform goodies. A cutting-edge, distinct Apple design would be another benefit. All of this would be hard for Apple diehards to resist. Then of course there's the status factor of having an Apple television parked in the TV room.
Recently I wrote about why Apple still doesn't have a TV strategy. Yet there can be no question Steve Jobs is closely watching the evolution of connected devices and looking for an entry opportunity. With the new 27-inch display, Apple is once again showing just how close it may already be.
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