Tech-savvy investors> will be focused on Apple (AAPL)
Apple s annual September media event, where the company unveils its latest gadgets in music and media, is expected to begin at 1 p.m. The most anticipated product, which could cause ripples in television entertainment, is a revamped version of Apple TV, a set-top box that allows users to download movies and TV shows and watch them on their computer or TV. The new gadget, which could be called ITV, will likely retail for around $99, down from the original price of $229 when it was first introduced back in 2007. Pushing further into the TV world, Apple is also expected to announce 99-cent rentals of TV shows through iTunes from channels including News Corp s (NWS)
In addition, Apple will likely showcase new iPods and provide more details about its new social gaming network for the iPod touch, called Game Center.
For Apple shareholders, the company s expansion into TV could boost both its short- and long-term outlook. Regardless of specific product announcements likely to be made, we expect [today s] event to strengthen Apple's positioning as a mind-share leader of cool content consumption devices, Rajesh Ghai, an analyst at ThinkEquity, wrote in a report.
In the near term, 99-cent TV show rentals will probably be a success with users mostly because of the cheap price that will result in impulse buys, says Trip Chowdhry, a senior analyst who covers Apple at Global Equities Research. The pricing also pairs well with the economic slowdown and the fact that most consumers remain budget-strapped. The 99-cent pricetag is not a drainer for many people and is cheap enough for the consumer to buy content, he says, adding that if the cost were slightly higher--around $3 to $4 the product s success would be less predictable.
The introduction of a TV rental through iTunes underscores the growing popularity of the digital media player application. Chowdhry estimates that close to 150 million people around the world are comfortable using the app. Those are the consumers that Apple seems to be targeting with TV rentals, not including the new users that could start using iTunes for this service.
This rental program might be the first of several innovations to be launched using iTunes as Apple tries to update the app.
While we expect a degree of refresh for the iTunes software we mention that the platform is getting dated, Colin Gillis, a technology analyst at BGC Partners, wrote in a report. Music and media is moving to cloud based solutions with the ability to be sent locally across multiple devices for playback or streamed. Both innovations Apple TV and iTunes rental highlight the company s ongoing expansion despite the slow economy.
Apple is marketing products based on restrained consumer spending, but it s also preparing for how it will position itself after the recovery, says Chowdhry. By using the downturn to innovate products, the gap between Apple and its competitors grows, he says. At this point, the firm second in line with a similar TV gadget is Microsoft (MSFT),