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Apple's Tim Cook talks television and the surprising success of Apple TV

Karen Haslam | May 31, 2013
Cook reveals the success of the Apple TV and the company's continued interest in finding a way to bring TV into the 21st Century

Apple CEO Tim Cook spoke about television for five minutes during his interview at the D11 conference last night, and it would seem that he gave little away. However, there were insightful moments in the interview with Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher that do give an indication that this is definitely something that Apple is investigating. Cook also revealed interesting data about the popularity of the current Apple TV set-top box.

Cook began speaking about television at around 10 minutes into the interview when, having mentioned that Apple has "several more game changers in us," Swisher noted that at the conference last year Cook had spoken about television, "You seemed very bullish on it," she said.

The popularity of the Apple TV
In response to Swisher's question, Cook provided an update on Apple and television: "We're still playing in TV through Apple TV, and Apple TV, I don't remember where we were last year, but let me give you a little bit of an update here, for several years we've been selling a few hundred thousand, we've now sold over 13 million, and about half of those in the last year."

Asymco's Horace Dediu claims that the number is actually closer to 19 million if the first generation Apple TV is included, notes Fortune.

In an article, Fortune asks how the 13 million Apple TV sales stacks up against the competition. The answer, excluding Xbox and Playstation:

Apple TV: More than 13,000,000Roku: More than 5,000,000Boxee Box: About 200,000 (before it was discontinued last summer)

A point of contrast: in December last year Morgan Stanley analyst Katy Huberty suggested that Apple could sell at least 13 million Apple branded televisions for about $1,060 each.

It would appear that the popularity of the product that Jobs used to describe as a hobby has somewhat taken the company by surprise. "Frankly the popularity of it has become much larger than we would have thought. And we're not marketing it, or these sorts of things that you would normally do, and that we do for our other products. So it's encouraging," revealed Cook later on in the interview.

Testing the water with Apple TV
Having emphasised the recent popularly of the Apple TV, it appears that Cook sees it as a useful learning experience for the company. Cook continued: "That business has found many many more customers that love the Apple TV experience. That has been great for customers but also very good from a learning point of view for Apple." Some could interpret that as suggesting that, in the same way as Apple learned about the phone market through a partnership with Motorola and the ROKR mobile phone, the company can learn about the market for television through the Apple TV.

 

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