Speculation: Apple will not ship a TV set.
There's really no good reason for them not to. If you imagine that at a minimum you take an iMac and bolt the Apple TV onto it, that by itself would be a high-margin product that would be a coveted item in their Apple Store locations.
All Apple really needs to do is build the Apple TV electronics into an elegant, big-screen, iMac-like TV set and they'll win millions of customers. They'll probably do more than that, and they would be foolish not to do a TV of some kind.
Assumption: TV is a lousy business for Apple because of low turnover.
For starters, Apple could conceivably make TVs a higher turnover business, getting their best customers to buy a new set every two years. But even if they didn't, they need only make the Apple TV part software upgradable, and they can use a TV set line to bolster their bid to own the living room.
Assumption: Apple's TV business is about selling hardware.
Apple is famous for making profits on all aspects of their business. Yes, Apple can sell TVs and Apple TV boxes at a profit. But they'll also gain profitability from apps and content, and that's the gift that keeps on giving for Apple, even with low hardware turnover.
Assumption: The hardest thing about an Apple TV set is hardware.
Any TV product is likely to be less complex and difficult to make than existing iMacs. The hardest part is the content deals -- getting Hollywood to make more movies available in more flexible ways than they currently do. Creating a compelling user interface and minimizing the need for remote-control buttons is the second hardest.
Assumption: Apple's TV initiative will be mostly about TV.
When Brian Williams raised the subject of Apple's TV initiatives, Tim Cook gave a telling response.
Williams said: "What can Apple do for television watching?"
Cook replied, in part: "You know, I used to watch “The Jetsons” as a kid." And "we're living 'The Jetsons' with this."
If you recall, the Jetson's TV was used most spectacularly as a videophone. And I think that's a clue to how Apple is thinking about the TV -- it's an opportunity for social interaction, apps and cloud services, and not just for watching Seinfeld re-runs.
Speculation: Apple's big improvements will involve video quality.
Much of the speculation around any future Apple TV set dwell on whether the set will be a high-end 4k display, or involve some amazing new kind of 3D.
Yes, it's safe to say that Apple will think different with a new approach to television. But these improvements are unlikely to be about improving video quality.
First, video quality is a virtue that existing high-end TVs already have. In fact, it's the only major selling point for standard TVs these days.
Besides, consumers aren't generally bothered by the quality of video or 3D on their displays. They're bothered by the interfaces and by the frustration that results when they can't see what they want when they want to see it.
And these are the areas Apple will innovate.
In generally, the rumors, speculation and assumptions around Apple’s future plans for television are right: They’re probably going to make a TV set. But the details of all this guesswork are mostly way off.