Despite dismissing it as merely "a hobby," Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL) already has become a leading player in the connected TV player market with its Apple TV streaming device, and the likelihood of it coming to market in 2012 with a connected TV has one analyst warning competitors to get their game on before the company runs away with the segment.
Strategy Analytics today reported that 8 percent of U.S. households own a connected TV player, adding that despite pressure from competitors Boxee, Roku, Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) and others, Apple is expected to control control 32 percent of the market this year.
The research firm's new report, Connected TV Players: Another Battlefield in the Smart TV War, said global sales of the video streaming or Internet TV set-top-boxes will more than double this year from a year ago.
Strategy Analytics senior analyst Jia Wu said that Apple will sell about 4 million of the 12 million devices expected to ship this year.
Although the devices have yet to become mainstream, Wu said an increasing number of consumers are buying them and said dropping prices for second generation devices have made them more affordable and compelling to consumers.
And that, Wu said, will be good news for content providers, because Apple TV users spend more money on movies and TV shows, renting movies and TV shows more often than users of other devices.
"Apple is leading this nascent market, which it still considers a ‘hobby,'" said Wu.
And, he warns, he doesn't expect Apple's lead, once it launches a connected TV as expected in 2012, to do anything but grow.
"Rival platforms must accelerate their development plans to keep Apple from running away with the connected TV business, as it has done in smartphones and digital music," he said.
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