Here's The 'Scoop' On Apple TV

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- The speculation around Apple ( AAPL) TV has passed the height of absurdity.

In one corner, you have the well-respected Jean-Louis Gassée calling the notion of an actual television set from Apple an "enduring fantasy." In the other, there's Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster predicting an imminent release, as Gassée noted, for the umpteenth time and third year in a row (!).

Gassée makes compelling points.

First, he states the obvious: Consumers should be able to access a la carte television. Every program should be an on-demand app. Of course. But that's not going to happen. You'll have to go through the "trouble" of programming your DVR from your iPhone a while longer.

Apple will never cut this deal with the cable/satellite companies and content owners. And there's really no reason why it should.

Gassée asks "why bother" with a television anyway, noting that the revenue Apple would generate represents a tiny fraction of the whole. I don't agree, but, going with that for a second, you could say the same about Apple doing a full-fledged Pandora ( P) competitor.

Big difference between the two: Apple can break a hell of a lot more ground in the living room than it can in streaming radio. I detail several reasons why in the above-linked and other recent articles.

But here's what really baffles me: This hyper-focus on content. I cringe when I make this "accusation" in the same breath as a summary of a Gassée argument, but this hyper-focus shows a fundamental misunderstanding of what Apple is and why it's so successful.

Turn on a television -- any one of them -- and, depending on what you subscribe to -- content is there. Theoretically, you can access "all of it." That's all Apple needs: A world full of viewable content.

The real "why bother" is why bother getting involved in that whole mess? It's a war not worth fighting. In a perfect world, consumers download or stream content a la carte, but it's not really in Apple's best interest to fight for that "right." I don't see the upside. It's a money out, hustle way too hard to churn out enough product to make acceptable margins proposition.

As I explained in Apple's Stock Could Still Double Even If it Doesn't Sell 156 Million iTVs, this company is all about creating intuitive, innovative and alluring user experiences. It does not need to own content or even distribution to do this.

Maybe it could do a special side deal here or there on really prime stuff (e.g., EPL soccer or a sweet deal with the NFL for Sunday Ticket) or knock knuckles with Google ( GOOG), ( AMZN), Netflix ( NFLX) and others by farming out some original programming, but there's not even a need for that.

All Apple really "needs" to do is give enough people a compelling reason to choose iTV over the many very good sub-$1,000 televisions already on the market. These less-expensive models don't do much, relative to what Apple will likely be able to pull off. They hook you up to the Internet and give you access to everybody's platform and content -- usually for a price. Great stuff, but hardly the end of innovation.

Tim Cook steps "back in time" in the living room because he merely pushes the power button and makes a selection. Outside of Microsoft ( MSFT) few companies have moved that load of living room boredom forward. That's what Apple can and will do.

I've seen too many Apple TV predictions. Guys like Munster telling us every other week they have a "scoop." That they talked to somebody in Korea or China, found a note on the beach in San Francisco or got tipped off by "somebody familiar with Apple's thinking" on the living room.


Heck, I can claim that I am "familiar with" somebody's thinking. Isn't that what we all do when we have opinions. Unless you're really tight with Steve Jobs or Tim Cook you have no idea what the heck Apple is thinking.

Your guess is as good as my "scoop."

--Written by Rocco Pendola in Santa Monica, Calif.