Apple recently revealed that it’s making a $4 billion investment over the next two years for “inventory component prepayments and capital expenditures.”
Many conclude this is a big bet on display technology.
Is that because Apple may soon go head-first into the TV business?
A note released today by iSuppli says Apple is betting big to “guarantee availability of advanced liquid-crystal display (LCD) panels for its iPad and iPhone lines.”
Specifically, iSuppli believes Apple has established agreements with LG, Sharp, and Toshiba for supply of Apple’s retina display, including technologies called IPS (“in-plane switching”) and LTPS (“low-temperature polysilicon.”)
As Fortune’s Philip Elmer-DeWitt notes, Apple isn’t just buying displays ahead of time, it’s helping build the factories that make them.
We have no doubt that much of Apple’s focus here is for its portable gadgets, such as the iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad, which represent Apple’s future (and a huge portion of its revenue and profits).
But might a move into the TV business also play a role in Apple’s investment?
For example, IPS technology, as Apple describes on its website, makes displays “look great from almost any angle.” That’s a nice feature on the iMac and the iPhone. But it would make a really great selling point for an Apple television.
If Apple does eventually enter the TV industry, as many expect it will, it won’t be there to compete on price — it will compete with better software and better technology. Could this $4 billion bet be one of its first steps?
FaceTime video chat works fine on our iPhone, but it could be pretty cool on our living room HDTV. Apple would need to sell a camera add-on gadget for the Apple TV.
Tom Skilling's weather app. This could include standard forecast features, plus video from WGN-Chicago's Tom Skilling, the greatest weatherman in the world. And it could even generate revenue for the ailing Tribune Company!
NBA Jam and other arcade-style games would be super fun, and would not require complex remote controls to play.
We actually think the living room TV could be a good place to do some shopping, even ordering groceries via FreshDirect.
We're very excited for the AirPlay feature, which lets you beam the video you're watching on your iPad or iPhone to your Apple TV. It would be nice if this worked for photo slideshows, too.
Other video apps than iTunes will be huge. We'd especially love to see Amazon offer its Video on Demand platform for the Apple TV. The competition would be good for both Amazon and Apple.
MLB At Bat is a great way to watch baseball on the iPhone and iPad. It would be even better on the Apple TV.
We hate PowerPoints, but a viewing app could be a good excuse to buy one for the office conference room, and write it off as a business expense.
Pandora and other streaming radio apps would be nice to have. Pandora tells us that users who listen through connected TVs or Blu-ray players listen for about 3 hours over the course of a day, comparable to web and mobile.
Safari. Not because we want to browse the web on our TV for extended periods. But for a quick look-up here and there, it could be helpful.
BONUS: Something awesome we've never imagined before. On the iPad, we've seen cool new apps like FlipBoard, which didn't exist on the iPhone. No doubt some cool Apple TV-first apps will pop up.
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