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Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster, who has long clamored for an Apple television set, said on Thursday that he believes a revamped Apple TV set-top box could prove to be a centerpiece for the company's fall 2015 product lineup.
Munster continues to believe that a full-fledged Apple television set is in the works — a point he made clear once again in his latest note to investors. But in the interim, he sees a more powerful Apple TV set-top box launching this year as a step toward a potential connected HDTV.
For the next-generation Apple TV, Munster predicts that updated hardware and software will integrate content, gaming and HomeKit support.
On the content front, Munster made note of Sling TV, the new Web-based, $20-per-month television service from Dish. To the analyst, Sling TV is a sign that content owners are beginning to "think differently" about offering so-called over-the-top channel subscriptions without a traditional cable plan.
Munster also cited recent reports claiming that Apple has been in talks with content providers to develop its own content service akin to Sling TV.
"We believe that a content service could be paired with an updated Apple TV box in a fall event alongside a new iPhone or iPad," Munster said. "We believe that an updated Apple TV and/or content offering could be one of the core new offerings from Apple in 2015, given our belief that the phone is likely to be an 'S' upgrade cycle, and there appears to be little new on the iPad side other than a potentially larger screen."
And with HomeKit, Munster sees the Apple TV becoming a hub for users' connected homes. In Particular, he believes the "Hey Siri" handsfree feature in iOS 8 could be extended to the Apple TV, allowing users to conveniently control connected devices in their home with their voice.
As for the Apple television set that Munster has long pined for, his revised timeline now sees such a device coming to market in late 2016 "at the earliest." He believes Apple will wait until it feels comfortable with its integrated feature set before it begins selling a full-fledged HDTV.