Rumors Build Around Apple TV

Suppliers say 'iTV' could reach consumers in 2012

It looks like consumers may get their hands on Apple's long-rumored iTV next year.

Taiwanese technology publication DigiTimes published two stories this week claiming that Apple is telling hardware suppliers to start preparing for production. While DigiTimes' sources seem to differ on which companies will be responsible for which components, they agree that Apple plans to launch its own TV sets by the end of next year. One source says the initial product line will focus on 32- and 37-inch screens.

Piggybacking on the DigiTimes articles, Sterne Agee analyst Shaw Wu released his own report, arguing that Apple should enter the TV market and that its product lineup should include both set-top boxes (the current Apple TV product), as well as an "integrated, all-in-one version" (the rumored iTV). The real question, Wu said, isn't Apple's hardware; it's what kind of content deals the company can strike.

"Today, iTunes has a rich library of movies and TV shows, but it is mostly for downloads and only movies are available for rental," he wrote. "What's missing is live broadcast television. One obvious way to offer this is via the traditional way where a user subscribes to cable or satellite. But a more revolutionary, disruptive and differentiated way is via the Internet or IPTV, which would be more in line with its iTunes and iCloud model."

Former CEO Steve Jobs famously called the existing Apple TV device a "hobby," and current CEO Tim Cook has said while it's not a core part of Apple's business, "We think that there's something there." Hence the long-standing speculation that the next stage of Apple's TV plans involves making an actual television.

Those rumors gained momentum in October after the publication of Walter Isaacson's biography Steve Jobs, which quotes Jobs as declaring that he's "finally cracked" the TV problem. The New York Times writer Nick Bilton reported that the product would likely involve voice control, and he concluded, "It's not a matter of if, it's a matter of when."

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