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Apple TV: The Stuff Dreams Are Made Of

With some high-profile content ramping up audience expectations, Apple might be able to tout its history of such successes to pressure -- um, I mean persuade -- the studios to soften their opposition. They'll want to compete in the new arena.

I admit it's all very far-fetched. The idea that Apple could compete with cable or Hollywood or both -- it's ridiculous.

But iPod/iTunes was equally far-fetched. Content owners balked at that, too, initially, and it worked.

Goodbye to All That

Of course, the elephant in the living room of this discussion: Steve Jobs is dead. Take a look at him delivering the introduction of the iPod at a low-key event in 2001. Note the way he lays out his entire logical framework and gloats over every technical detail.

He's all about the coolness of the device here. But behind the curtain he's already constructed iTunes as a dedicated delivery system for that device and its proprietary, unshareable content-compression format.

Speculation is rife that, along with Jobs, innovation of this kind at Apple is also dead -- disruptive, surreal leaps forward, developing not just a product, but a suite of business channels at once, an ecosystem.

I think we've had indications that is the case: Apple now pays a dividend, an idea Jobs opposed, probably because he saw it as a sign the company was giving up on high-risk, high-reward gambles. Neither of Apple's recent product introductions carried breakthroughs -- the iPhone 5 and the iPad mini both looked suspiciously like old wine in new bottles.

But, finally, it will be Apple TV that tells the tale. New device? Or disruptive, seismic shift?

Either way, I'm inclined to think the stock remains a solid investment. But it would be nice to think the thrill ride isn't over.

Too often, our vision of the future is merely a mirror of the past. It has been nice, occasionally, to be made to think different.

-- Written by Carlton Wilkinson in Asbury Park, N.J.

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