Munster: iTV Just a Step Towards Full-Fledged Flat Panel Apple TV

Renowned Piper Jaffray analyst, Gene Munster, corroborates rumors of Apple launching a cloud-based Apple TV, with its own place in the App Store, although he notes this is a mere stepping stone for a full-fledged Apple HDTV.

By issuing one of his usual investor notes, Munster said his company strongly believes Apple plans to launch a connected, full-fledged HDTV in the next 2 to 4 years, according to a report by AppleInsider.

The upcoming iTV device is considered a mere stepping stone at Piper Jaffray, he said, acknowledging recent rumors that the existing Apple TV box will be renamed iTV.

Munster said that the anticipated Apple’s soon-to-launch data center in North Carolina to be used as a hub for a cloud-based iTunes service, also rumored to be in the works at Apple.

The service would allow customers to stream various kinds of content to the iTV, effectively eliminating the need of a large storage capacity device.

Munster specifically noted that he agrees with rumors of an App Store for the new iTV.

Apple released an iPad-dedicated section of the App Store in tandem with the tablet’s official debut.

The report includes a statement from Apple CEO, Steve Jobs issued in June during the All Things D conference hosted by the Wall Street Journal.

Asked about his company’s plans with the television marketplace, Jobs noted that the Apple TV remains a hobby simply because people are comfortable with receiving a cable box for free or for $10 per month.

However, Apple believes it can innovate in this niche of the market, just like it did (and still does) in others.

"The only way that's ever going to change," Jobs said, "is if you can really go back to square one, tear up the set top box, redesign it from scratch with a consistent UI across all these different functions, and get it to consumers in a way that they're willing to pay for it.”

According to the CEO, “right now there's no way to do that."

Apple well positioned to introduce an Internet-based iTunes TV pass for $50 to $90 per month, Munster believes.

"Apple's ability to deliver hardware, software and content that could replace an entire entertainment system with a single TV, puts Apple in a unique position for the emerging connected TV cycle," he wrote.

"Apple already has several of the key ingredients for success in the connected TV market, many of which would differentiate Apple from current market players," Munster added.

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