A high-ranking source with a major electronics retailer has told TechnoBuffalo to expect the long-rumored Apple TV set this April, or possibly May at the latest. Speaking on conditions of anonymity, the source said they’ve seen “gorgeous, very thin” pre-production versions of the set in person, and that they employ OLED panels at various sizes up to 42-inches. If true, Apple’s set will debut as the largest OLED based HDTV on the consumer market. LG and Samsung debuted 55-inch OLED sets at CES earlier this month, but neither is set to launch as soon as April.
While we don’t know if the set will be running its own version of iOS, we do know that will have deep integration with devices based on the popular operating system. The set will also sport Siri style voice controls as well as facial recognition software, and plans for the TV’s voice control system are said to far exceed what’s currently in use on the iPhone 4S. Additionally, if the user opts to not use voice controly, an iOS device can be used as a stand in remote. Apple execs are reportedly describing the new product line as a “hub” for your life, replacing the PC as the most-used device in a consumer’s home. Welcome to the “Post-PC Era.”
Our source said Apple is exploring the notion of using the set to control other connected devices in the home; think along the lines of ovens that pre-heat while you’re watching TV before dinner, and garage doors that can be closed by voice command while you sit on the couch. No details were given as to whether Apple would consider manufacturing such devices, though given their history, a “Made for iPod” style accessory program would be a natural fit for a TV-based connected home system.
Controls for the television set would be unconventional and unique, according to the retail exec. The TV will follow the Apple tradition of going into power-saving sleep mode more often than actually turning off. Thanks to facial recognition software, something we’ve known Apple has been playing around with for some time now, the television will reawaken when someone it recognizes walks into the room. Should two recognized users be present in the room at the same time, an iOS app can be used to tell the set which person should be given control.
The recently published Steve Jobs biography talks about television as one of the industries Jobs was most interested in revamping, saying that he’d “finally cracked the code” on how to remake TV just before his death last year. We asked our source why it has taken Apple so long to release this rumored television set. According to the source, the delay in getting Apple’s TV to market has been a matter of Apple’s well-known product upgrade cycles.
Consumers have grown accustomed to the concept of a new iPad or iPhone once a year, but Apple knew they couldn’t count on consumers buying a new TV set every 12 months. With this in mind the company opted to try to make the first version of the set as complete as they could with killer features that would make it hard to resist despite not being the physically largest television set on the market. Given what we saw at CES from LG and Samsung’s OLED panels, even if Apple’s TV tops out at 42-inches it will stand out in stores based on its panel brightness and industrial design alone. OLED screens can be made incredibly thin and lightweight, and we all know how much Apple loves to hype their designs.
The only question that remains, assuming our source is reliable, is how much Apple’s TV will cost. Neither LG nor Samsung talked pricing for their 55-inch OLED prototypes, but most journalists have been predicting the sets will retail for at least $7,000 when they hit stores this summer. Apple’s panels will be smaller, and CEO Tim Cook has a well-earned reputation for getting great prices from his suppliers. Even still, it’s hard to imagine a 42-inch Apple TV selling for $999. If the set costs $2,000 or 3,000, would you buy one?
Sean Aune & Noah Kravitz contributed to this post.
All images associated with this post are speculative and based on the information obtained.