My belief is that Apple TV sales numbers will continue to increase as the device is slowly, patiently improved and the ecosystem is enhanced. In a not-too-distant future we’ll see explicit Apple TV apps, similar to those on iPhones and iPads.
And someday, Apple will reach a limited agreement with a carrier such as Comcast. The enhanced experience will create a wedge — and will spur competitors. As a result, TV will at last become “modern” — sitting down in front of your TV set will no longer send you time traveling to 1992.
That’s my guess how this plays out as well. First we’ll get a third-party app SDK for the existing Apple TVs, perhaps next year. That will set the stage for the next generation hardware, which may still be less of a TV and more of a powerful set-top box. Then comes a deal with someone like Comcast, which will Apple will try to use as leverage to get other cable companies in line with their undoubtedly strict terms. And then perhaps actual television hardware.
In other words, the iPhone strategy.
That’s the easiest way I see all this happening, but it won’t be as “easy” as it was with the carriers because the cable guys are all regional and have de-facto monopolies over their regions. In other words, it’s going to be even hard to negotiate with them.