In recent weeks there's been a flurry of talk about Apple  's potential entry into the television business. Some argue that the company will come to market with its own flat-screen TV, citing the company's long history of wanting to control both hardware and software. More likely it will introduce a set-top box, but probably not like anything we've ever seen before.
Apple (ticker: AAPL) succeeded in upending music, mobile phones and PCs primarily because the industry failed to create desirable devices for consumers. Televisions are already impressive feats of hardware. The latest flat-panel displays are an inch thick with bezels disappearing into large, immersive screens. Steve Jobs himself would have had a hard time improving on the industrial design of current models from Samsung and LG.
It's cable that's the weak link, with its clunky cable boxes and engineering-driven programming interfaces. Tim Cook & Co. don't need a full-fledged TV to have a radical impact on the living room. Besides, it would be out of character for Apple to make a product with a seven-year replacement cycle.
With its intense focus on an intuitive user experience, the company will almost certainly make tuning in as simple as telling Siri, "I want to see the Orioles-Blue Jays game," or "Show me the first season of F Troop ." What's hard to know is what kind of deals the company will strike with cable and content providers.
Toni Sacconaghi, who covers the company for Sanford C. Bernstein & Co., has been predicting since November that Apple would make a set-top box in lieu of an integrated television. And discussions with industry analysts and insiders suggest that box may now tap into cable's existing TV stream, rather than pursue an "over-the-top" strategy that would displace cable entirely.
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