thinking wondering the other day, whilst running on the treadmill in the gym, watching three tv's simultaneously (cricket (we lost), boat race (Cambridge won) and the football scores (we won, arsenal lost)) if Apple would ever make an actual TV set.
Initially, I reckoned not, but the more I thought about it the more it made sense that there quite likely is a strong possibility that they might.
The reason I thought not, was that a television is not really a product Apple can bring a lot too. Apple does a great job of taking complicated interfaces and making them as simple and user orientated as they can. General purpose computing devices (Macs), devices for storing and playing thousands of songs and movies (iPods) and devices for communicating via email, voice, text and web (iPhone).
In all these areas, the competition has been producing to one degree or another flawed devices. And definitely flawed ecosystems around the actual devices themselves (I just spent 20 minutes trying and failing to open an audio file in the latest windows media player). But a TV isn't really a failed device. For the most part you turn it on and it works. And the broadcast ecosystem is something that I doubt even Apple is foolish enough to take on.
However the ecosystem is shifting away from broadcast to net enabled view on demand. It's not there yet, but it definitely is changing. And TVs themselves (even the good looking ones) actually have never been that easy to set up (find me a TV with an easy menu system) or to wire up, or even to find one with a remote control that makes sense.
Although even that probably wouldn't give any reason to get Apple into designing a TV. Why I think they might do it, is that they have all the bits, and to combine them in a way better than anyone else has done wouldn't be hard.
They already sell top quality high definition displays. Although I can't quite see how any justifies the price, they do sell so I assume I'm just not the target market. And they have just released their Apple TV product, that connects iTunes to your TV. Essentially it's an slightly advanced TV iPod. As more content comes via the internet, this (and these type of) products will become more and more popular.
They also have split OSX into a 'Computer' version and a 'Device' version allowing them to have more advanced functionality designed into a slick interface that makes it easy to use, which is something TVs generally don't have. In fact the splitting of OSX gives them a lot they can do on the TV space. As long as Device-OSX works in such a way that you can turn on the TV and it just works instantaneously, then I don't see why not.
I mean they already do a 24" iMac. The only difference in the iMac is that it doesn't have a tuner, and has too much computing gubbins that TV probably doesn't need. But they could slim down the iMac. Slower (cheaper) processor, enough memory & HDD to do the Apple TV type stuff, optical drive for playing CDs/DVDs/etc and throw in a TV tuner and a bigger screen. In fact down the line throw in some TIVO like functionality and now you have a way of getting broadcast TV onto your iPod too. I have no doubt Apple could do a lot more smart things here as well, that I can't think of.
I wonder if the current Apple TV is as much a tester into the media centre space as much as anything. The problem Microsoft always had with their Media Centre was that it really was a full computer you needed to attach to your TV. OSX for devices is specifically not a full computer. It's a tailored operating system for the device (iPhone, Apple TV) that it works with. That and Microsoft knows shit all about interface design.
I'm not saying Apple would do this. I suspect the TV industry is very competitive with too many players and not enough margins, where the Apple TV device sells quite happily in support of that industry. And there is plenty of competition on the PVR side of things with broadcast companies' (cf. Sky Plus) own products. But it's not an entirely unreasonable line of thinking.