updated 07:20 pm EST, Tue January 24, 2012
Over 2.8M in 2011 sales falls short of predictions
The latest generation of Apple TV also received a bump during Apple's record holiday season, selling as many units in the last three months of 2011 as it had in the nine months prior, for a total of "just over" 2.8 million units total in 2011, less than the million units per quarter predicted by some analysts but still making it the most popular device of its type, its main competition being the standalone Google TV units as sold by Samsung and Logitech.
The surge in sales during the holidays may suggest some accelerating acceptance of the product, which both Steve Jobs and Tim Cook have referred to as still being "a hobby" for the company. In today's quarterly analyst call, Cook included a subtle pitch for the product, saying he "couldn't live without" his.
He went on to say characterize the product as something that isn't a big seller compared to the better-known consumer products the company makes, but suggested that the low sales expectations gave the company the freedom to experiment, saying they will "pull the strings and see where they take us" in future revisions. Cook also hinted at further software revisions to the existing product, saying the company will continue to "add things to it" (presumably referring to more content, services and other features) and called it a "fantastic product."
There was no hint that the device would be shelved or discontinued, even if an Apple-branded television were to appear as has been widely rumored for later this year. Were Apple to offer such a product, it would likely keep the existing Apple TV as a way to add many of the same benefits and integrated iOS-based television set would have to customers who already have an HDTV or prefer to buy a different brand.
Hackers may have inadvertently tipped Apple's hand by demonstrating that iOS apps can be made to run natively on an Apple TV unit, which uses a variant of the same iOS version as the iPad and iPhone. A future integrated television or Apple TV standalone unit that offered native iOS app compatibility, Siri control and iCloud services would be a compelling update that would likely push the product into the mainstream.
Apple's future plans will continue to get some level of competition from Google TV technology, as the company has been seen moving in the direction of making the TV-customized Android version more gaming-centric and integrating directly into television sets rather than focusing on its lacklustre set-top boxes. Google's recent moves have indicated that it may try positioning Google TV as a low-cost alternative to traditional game consoles (most of which also feature some level of internet access) rather than directly match Apple TV in features.