It's pretty clear that we're going to see a new iPad next Wednesday at the Apple event in San Francisco. But what about an Apple TV?
I'm going to make the case that investors should hope we don't get a television next week. Why? The iPad is Apple's newest growth machine, and deserves to have the spotlight to itself. And spring and summer aren't great times to sell televisions.
First, there's not a lot of upside to Apple stealing thunder from the new iPad. Think about it: Apple executives take the stage and talk about what a huge success the iPad has been; introduce new software and services for it; unveil a new model with a sharper screen, better camera and faster chip; design Jony Ive appears in a video talking about how there's never been a high-resolution touch display this responsive — and then, "One more thing" — a TV.
Whiplash. Marketing chief Phil Schiller would have to take another hour to explain how great the TV is. Design chief Jony Ive would have to appear in another video about how everything Apple has done in digital entertainment since the iPod has built up to this moment. And all the headlines would be about Apple's bold attempt to take over the living room. And oh yeah —there was something about a new iPad.
Considering Apple sold 15.4 million iPads last quarter for $9.2 billion in revenue, it would be sort of a shame for Apple to steal the buzz from a product category CEO Tim Cook says will be bigger than PCs. There would be a real financial cost to taking the focus off the iPad.
Then there's the question of timing.
There are two major shopping seasons in the 250-million-unit annual TV market. In North America in particular, the first is the holiday season, starting just after Thanksgiving. The second follows a month later, just before the Super Bowl. So if Apple's going to unveil a new TV, the best time to do it is probably August or September — that gives enough time for Apple to build up inventory after the announcement and have millions of sets on hand to sell.
Why would you unveil a TV set in March? Well, that would catch the Dads and Grads season if it's ready by May. But people don't buy TVs for Father's Day and graduations, they buy gadgets. And while there might be a little bit more incentive for shoppers to buy TVs this summer with the Olympics happening, summer is actually a slow season for TV in general.
Then there's the developer issue. If Apple needs software developers, gaming companies or other content providers to build products that work with an Apple TV, they'll want to give them a few months to work on things. That could justify showing us a TV this early.
But you know what might make the most sense? Apple could update the $99 Apple TV box with a lot of the features it intends to build into the full-fledged television, but save the TV launch for closer to TV-buying season. That would give the iPad its day in the sun, and let the TV stand on its own.