Behind Apple’s move to shelve their UHD TV project

“Investor Carl Icahn said he expects Apple Inc. to introduce an ultra-high-definition television in 2016,” Daisuke Wakabayashi reports for The Wall Street Journal. “But after nearly a decade of research, Apple quietly shelved plans to make such a set more than a year ago, according to people familiar with the matter.”

“Mr. Icahn declined to comment. In his letter, he said that if Mr. Cook chose not to pursue some of the new categories, he’ll be ‘the first to admit that you are knowledgeable in these areas,'” Wakabayashi reports. “Apple is now focused on creating an online TV service and redesigning the Apple TV box, the people familiar with the matter said. It hopes to feature the new offerings at its developers’ conference next month, the people said.”

MacDailyNews Take: When Apple looks at what categories to enter, we ask these kinds of questions: What are the primary technologies behind this? What do we bring? Can we make a significant contribution to society with this? If we can’t, and if we can’t own the key technologies, we don’t do it. That philosophy comes directly from [Steve Jobs] and it still very much permeates the place. I hope that it always will.Apple CEO Tim Cook, March 18, 2015

“Apple is in talks with programmers to create a bundle of TV channels delivered over the Internet to its devices, according to people familiar with the matter. It has told media companies that it hopes to unveil the service in June, and begin programming in the fall, they said,” Wakabayashi reports. “Apple is also expected to unveil a slimmer version of its Apple TV box with a redesigned remote control and revamped software, according to people familiar with the matter.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Quick, somebody bolt the windows to the ledge in Gene Munster’s office!

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “Dan K.” for the heads up.]


  1. Really? Did they shelve the TV? Maybe they hung it up in the back room? Perhaps they set it aside over on a side table by the wall? Or perhaps they sent the idea to grandma’s because they’ve had their eye on a much better TV idea for a while.

      1. Apple has vast research areas, so TV definitely was part of it. But what is also great that Apple will not release a TV just because it can — so most of research goes on products that will never exist. But it is not in vain since developed technologies and methods will be used elsewhere.

  2. Apple is approaching TV differently from most of its other endeavors. Usually, the point is to profit from selling hardware. Services are usually value-added (often exclusive) “features” for Apple’s hardware customers, to promote their satisfaction and loyalty, and continued hardware sales.

    Apple realizes that the profit in TV is in the service, NOT the hardware. This is why Apple lowered the price of the Apple TV mini-box to $69, right before the rumored Apple Internet TV service, to maximize the potential customers for the rumored “Internet TV bundle” service. Apple wants to legitimize this service as a viable alternative to “cable TV.”

    Down the road (once it is established), the TV service is a way to profit from selling TV hardware. Apple can use it to subsidize its own hardware (much like wireless carriers subsidize iPhone sales to profit from offering wireless service). A future mini-box Apple TV can be the “free” option, with agreement to pay for Apple’s TV service for a set period (like one year). And a subsidized price (like iPhone’s upfront price) allows Apple to finally release that “ultra HD” TV and match or beat competitors’ prices for “dumb” TVs.

      1. I have options where I live, but I currently have Comcast as my “triple play” service provider. The main alternative would be AT&T Uverse, but they seem to operate in the same general way (and its capacity for “broadband” is slower than Comcast), so it’s not a true alternative. The problem is that Comcast has the “monopoly” (where we live) on use of that “cable line.” And (for me) AT&T has the “phone line.” And (unless I put up a satellite dish) there are no other viable high-speed “pipes” with capacity to stream HD-quality video.

        This is one case where the Feds should step in to “encourage” competition for Internet service. And possibly the best justification is what Apple is rumored to be offering, which is a way to get a legitimate “TV content bundle” (not just separate “channels”) separately from the “triple play” bundle of the monopoly. This not only benefits Apple, but any other company who may want to do the same thing, including the existing TV service providers. For example, DirecTV may want to offer bundled TV content over the Internet to customers, instead forcing customers to put up a dish antenna.

        If anyone has the clout and resources to make it happen, it’s Apple. Offering that competing TV service is Step One. Once Internet service is forced to be completely (and fairly) separate from TV service, further competition between the “pipes” will drive prices lower. And since TV service is now separate, more content providers will emerge (not just Apple) and drive subscription prices down.

        1. You hear this notion, of the Feds needing to encourage competition for more pipes, all the time. Unfortunately this is a naive notion. For one this isn’t a Federal problem. Many of the cities and municipalities have given the rights to one cable provider. This is so they’ll invest the infrastructure. They need protection to get their investment back. How do you solve the problem of infrastructure investment? It is a huge problem and a messy one at that. Not one that will be solved with expensive fiber to the home investment.

          I suspect the “pipe” problem may improve with 5g wireless technologies. Unfortunately these will be very expensive and not practical for video right away until Telcos build out their fiber capacity to each respective cell site. This is much more affordable than bringing the pipes to every home.

          My 2 cents

          1. While 5G will help, you still need infrastructure (towers, switches, hubs, etc. etc.). You’re just trading one service provider for another, but perhaps there will be more options.

            1. My point is this….my neighborhood has 2 broadband providers (TWC and ATT) and currently AT&T is limited to copper bandwidth speeds. My neighborhood has 3 major wireless carries with towers (ATT, Verizon and Sprint). It would be far easier/cheaper to expand fiber capacity to the 3 cell towers verses ripping up streets and yards for over a 1500 homes. This is why I see the wireless carriers sitting in a great position to jump into this broadband space with the potential to kill off the LEC, if the pricing is ever brought down to earth.

      1. Yes, let’s all gather around the iPhone to watch the NBA playoffs. Mobile devices may be useful for watching some video content, but it will never beat a BIG screen as the preferred way to watch “HD-worthy” content. 🙂

        1. Yes but: you get to your favourite bar to meet a bunch of friends, the bar does not have access to the channel you need for that game, you ask the bartender to let you stream the game from your phone to his DBS (Dumb Big Screen).

          Is that not what’s coming ?

          TVs are deads, or will become “just screens”. Leave the content provision to more competent, better connected devices.

          1. FYI – That scenario only works if you happen to be carrying around a Lighting Digital AV Adapter (and maybe an HDMI cable too), to physically connect your iPhone to the bar’s “DBS.” If it “magically” works wirelessly, then that TV is “smart,” which negates your hypothesis about the future of TVs being “just screens.”

            And that’s precisely what Apple has already. A tiny box that connects to my personal DBS. That box conveniently provides direct content for the TV, but ALSO allows WIRELESS streaming of content from my iPhone to the TV screen and speakers (like your “bar” scenario). In other words, the $69 Apple TV mini-box turns ANY dumb HDTV into an SBS (smart big screen). In the near term, THAT is Apple’s goal for TV; turn every generic DBS into a potential Apple SBS. Then provide customers with a superior experience in watching content (whatever the source).

            1. I suppose you believe what is here today defines the future.

              This is like saying “why oh why did Apple get rid of floppy disks ? Firewire ports ? *ALL* ports not called USB-C on that new MacBook ?”

              Just watch this develop, let’s talk again in one year or two.

  3. I’m hardly surprised. Apple is known to research and investigate various technologies as well as product and service categories. That the company may have at least looked into a TV at one point should not be earth-shattering.

    But there is a considerable difference between research and committing to production.

    Sometimes, a company will research a product category or technology for use in a completely different way. Or, to better understand how to make a set-top box in conjunction with the content (which to me is still the most important feature) and user interface, it’s necessary to understand televisions. That may sound obvious, but without a deep dive, key details might otherwise be missed from the user experience.

    As Tim Cook said in the quote referenced above, if Apple cannot fundamentally change the status quo for a category, they’ll move on. I think we’ll find their focus on other aspects of television instead of the TV monitor itself is the right way to go.

    Now, can we just bury this non-story and move on? Please? Pretty please?

  4. “according to people familiar with the matter”

    Ah well, there you go then. The ol’ people familiar with the matter. No more need be said. It’s a lock.

  5. I am totally available to choose my TV viewing path. I have no contracts and all the excuses to make any decision to stay or leave. IE: I am in the driver’s seat.

    Just waiting until WWDC… Very excited. But I was very excited in September too. 🙂

  6. Apple should work on improving exisitng products / softwares they are moving too fast too soon and messing up their product line. Apple UHD tv will be a joke and looks like they realised it as well. Steve Jobs advice to google founder was to reduce the number of products and improve on the few and make a difference. Present Apple should just read those statements to wake the f@#k up. Are they happy with apple watch with the gazzillion that it has raked in, It is sad that Tim cook and Co are turning Apple into a joke.

    1. What are you ranting about? You make it sound like apple as zillions of product lines, when is it stands they have relatively few: iPhone, iPad, Apple computers and iWatch.

      That’s it. Now there may be a different devices in each of those areas, but that’s hardly the cacophony of product you’re making it out to be.

    1. Since there are 19,21,24,28,32,37,40, 42, 50, 55, 60, 65, and 70 inch TVs out there, all competing against each other, why on earth would Apple want to jump into that mess.

      All they have to do is make a box with all the Apple programming and features to hook up to ANY TV. That is what Apple TV is – the content. They realized that making a TV set makes no sense.

      1. I agree ?.. I was probably misunderstood?…
        What i meant is apple will not buid a full tv set..
        But disrupt tv through content delivery and software..

  7. ‘people familiar with the matter’ AND FURTHER ‘people familiar with the matter’ and EVEN MORE ‘people familiar with the matter’ are always right.

    Did you ever walk into a room full of little children playing and listen into what they’re talking about? . . .

    How cute. 👶👶👶

  8. Apple has cracked it, It is used in your face now. iMac, macbook, macbook air, macbook pro, iPad-air,mini 3, iPhone, apple watch, And now includes force touch… People Are blind and apple loves it.

  9. I would like Apple to work with TV manufacturers and build AppleTV into the units. Apple would approve the units to make sure the quality was right. The TV manufacturers would get to tout that Apple in is their units.
    My new TV has a myriad of internet services so why not add in Apple TV and combine them all in one interface.
    The biggest issue is that every TV manufacturer has their own system in place that rarely is used. The only useful app I have on my new TV is Netflix. A built in Apple TV could offer that an many more.

  10. Quite logical that they would produce prototype TV hardware to experiment with software/hardware combinations and services, just not sure it was something likely to lead to an actual hardware product. Only if they find a combination that they need to incorporate directly to expand the service and delivery platform above the opposition would such a product seem likely. Of course if the platform itself becomes extremely popular then such a product to enhance it might just become viable as part of the expansion possibilities for such a platform.

  11. I would think since they have a 5K display that’s 27″, anything larger would need to also be at least 5K, but for scaling purposes perhaps 8K would make the most sense, then when they cram that into an unbelievably thin casing, they see the costs are pretty damn high, so when they add their average profit margin to the costs, it prices them out of the typical consumer market. Unfortunate. I would have loved to have had one.

    Until the display costs come down, the standard is more adopted, and content providers are delivering on those higher resolutions, it makes more sense to shelve it considering their main benefit is from all the things you can do without the physical TV or pushing expensive costs onto consumers while so early into big changes that they would rather get higher adoption rates through lower prices.

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