Seems like Apple has news coming later this month. Regardless of your feelings about Apple, it’s safe to say they have mastered the art of the product launch like none other. Even when virtually every detail of a new product gets leaked due to it being stolen lost at a bar, they still master the news cycle and generally enchant and entertain. Some might argue they simply do things whenever they want, others would surmise they do it entirely calculated on a spreadsheet based on maximizing sales. My guess is they do it “when they can” – the moment they are done with the first production line and have the shipments queued up, the media invites go out, a few semi-leaks pop up here and there, then off to the races.
This works great when you can fit a few hundred phones into every crate and airdrop ‘em over the US at the same day/time with ease. Sure it’s costly, but in the grand scheme of things, no big deal. The boat’s left the harbor at the same time, and within 3 weeks the full distribution cycle is up and running.
But now we’re not talking about a gadget that fits in your pocket, it’s an Apple Television (right? right?). And despite what self-aggrandizing promoters some analysts say, it’d be my guess that they ship them in more sizes than just 32″ and 37″ (seriously, how did anyone actually believe that?). Unless they’re about to pour forth with statements about how those are actually the ideal sizes for a display, I don’t think they’re about to exist in a market where size really does matter and play on the small front. I’d guess we see one at ~32″, ~40″, ~50″, and ~60″ – those are the main categories of TVs sold today.
And now is where we face our hurdle: these TVs are big. The box for my Samsung 63″ plasma barely fit into a pickup truck! You can’t exactly airdrop hundreds of each model to Apple stores. In fact, every aspect of the logistics to pull off Apple’s typical surprise & delight maneuvers is quite tricky here. So that’s problem number one – in my guess they solve this via the “and you’ll all be able to receive your units 30 days from today” type of solution. But there’s no way you’ll hear “and you can go get them in Apple stores nationwide this afternoon.”
Second, unlike phones and iPads, and even computers, TV buying has a lot more seasonality to it. And other than a core set of fanatics (nope, I’m not at that level yet), most people aren’t about to pick up new expensive living room gear for any given reason. This is actually one of the trickiest nuances of the TV world (on the hardware front) – it’s really hard to get someone out of their buying cycles. Sure, if someone was already planning to get a new set next holiday season they’ll consider getting one in June or August or whenever. But if not, (question mark).
So, they can’t announce too soon. Or too late. They can’t announce in the first half of the year. But if they wait til too late, they’ll impact supply chain in a painful way and potentially affect sales.
My money’s on a late Spring announcement, shipping in the Summer. Even though it’s traditionally a terrible time to introduce a TV set to the market, it’ll give them more time to get the logistic down, the stores reformatted, and everything else into full swing in advance of the Q4 buying season.
But then again, it’s Apple, so “the rules” just don’t apply.