Rumors that Apple is eyeing HD TV set making biz have persisted for a couple years now, but no solid iTV evidence surfaced thus far apart from Jobs’ vague “I finally cracked it” quote from Walter Isaacson’s bio book.

But even a mere idea of Apple setting its sights on the television market has baffled incumbents undertaking precautionary measures.

As indicated in a report out of Asia yesterday, some makers have started making smart TV alliances out of fear that Apple might take the television market by surprise just as it’s done with the music market and, to a certain extent, with high-end smartphones…

Julian Ho filed a report with DigiTimes, writing that display system providers TPV Technology and LG Electronics and China-based TV brand Changhong are said to either be forming alliances with one another or are seeking out additional partners for smart TV alliances.

The sources said the alliances are also forming as Apple is preparing to release a smart TV. Due to Apple’s influence in the market, the sources fear it will further dominate the smart TV market, which is estimated to reach a 40% penetration rate by 2014.

These TV makers also want to catch up with Samsung, whose smart TVs lead not only in terms of industrial design, but also with features like apps, Internet access and digital media.

Samsung Smart TVs run apps, access the web, support multitouch remotes and some even understand 3D gestures.

It is interesting that TV makers are bracing themselves for an Apple television set that many technology watchers dismiss as a product that won’t make an impact because it’s a cut-throat business with razor-thin margins and long upgrade cycles.

Those same people cited exactly the same reasons when an Apple-branded phone had been mulled. Then the iPhone came along and turned the industry upside down. Other people argue that Apple doesn’t need a full-blown TV set, pointing at its $99 Apple TV set-top box.

The problem with both arguments is that a) Apple re-branded itself at the January 2007 iPhone introduction as a consumer electronics company so a bad-ass Apple TV set is a no-brainer, and b) ordinary consumers hate set-top boxes and will want to buy iTV as it would assumably change their preconceived expectations of what the TV can do.

Never underestimate the consumer.

Steve Ballmer famously laughed at the iPhone because, in his view, it debuted as “the most expensive phone on the planet”. Yet, the iPhone quickly picked up steam and has gone to become the best-selling phone.

Let’s not forget supply chain chatter of Foxconn making notable investments in Sharp display panels and manufacturing capabilities on behalf of Apple.

Here’s Walter Isaacson telling he left out some juicy details out of his book, including “what Steve Jobs thought the next Apple TV should be” (about 57 minutes into the interview).

Finally, I can confirm independently that multiple sources from the television industry told me a while ago that they’ve taken an Apple television set for granted.

I’m talking about companies that have access to industry data and know way more than me about what’s going on behind the curtain. These sources left no room for misinterpretation and were adamant that an Apple television set is a question of ‘when’, not ‘if’ (and Gene Munster agrees).

These industry executives seem to be expecting Apple’s entrance into this space with a combination of excitement and anxiety bordering on sheer fear. Make no mistake, TV makers are very well aware that the iTV – if done right – might easily reinvigorate the struggling HD TV business and threaten their existing business models.

I’ll just leave it at there, but you’re welcome to add up to the conversation down in the comments.

  • If/when this iTV comes out with the amount of time Apple have spent on it it should be fantastic and blow all other smart tv’s out of the water .. Which are out now and are just based on a rumour that Apple are making a TV …

  • I’m not so sure. As a long standing fan of Apple I am becoming increasingly dissapointed with what they have produced of late. I have not really seen anything ground breaking from them since the original iPhone. Even the iPad was just really a big iPhone!

    We are all waiting for the new iPhone but will it really be fundamentally different from what I’m holding now? iOS has received new features but many stolen from the Jailbreak community and from Android.

    • ps
      When are we going to see a new iMac? Sandy Bridge is so 2010

    • ReanimationXP

      There are only so many things that you can completely reinvent. The phone was long overdue and Apple picked up on it. It’s unlikely they’ll have many more truely revolutionary products like the iphone, because it consolidated so many previously-separate products.

  • A TV, revolutionary? No. But of course, Apple will come out with a TV that has all the same features as every other TV, but it will be considered revolutionary because of the Apple logo on the back. The same cycle happens every year. Just give me an iPhone that blows everything out of the water and leave it at that. Because that’s all I want. Better yet, that’s all I can afford. If all of their other products weren’t so overpriced I might have a legitimate Apple setup at my house. Please Apple, I love your products, but I don’t love what you do to competition. Just freakin’ innovate a new awesome product, give it to consumers, and THEN sue everyone else. The more you litigate, the more I (the consumer) suffer.

    • This would entail that hundreds of million of people buying Apple gear are brainwashed drones, no?

      • Nope. I just said their products were overpriced, and that all I wanted was an iPhone. And what I said stands true; whenever Apple comes out with something that’s already been used or has a new feature it’s considered “revolutionary”. Just like Siri. Voice Recognition was out long before Siri, but when Apple came out with it, it was revolutionary. And the more Apple spends on suing everyone to oblivion, the less we get when it comes to the products they provide us. I look forward to the next iPhone, but if they didn’t innovate anything, I’ll be looking elsewhere.

      • ReanimationXP

        Siri was fairly revolutionary when released.
        It’s just odd to me that they took it from an app and kept the name. I had used the app previously and thought it was mediocre, and after seeing the new features in the Apple commercial, I remember being pretty amazed. In real life it’s not as impressive, but I’m still amazed at how well dictation works compared to other previous solutions. Apple did what they usually do and pushed the industry forward. Because of it, instead of shitty voice recognition or none at all, Android invested heavily in voice recognition in 4.1 and gave a pretty damn impressive completely on-device demonstration at IO this year.

        Apple does recycle a lot of old ideas, but they bring new thought and ingenuity into it. It’s the reason they’re a recognized brand, and whether you can afford their products or not, they are one of the major leaders forcing other manufacturers to continue innovating to keep up. You should appreciate them either way. I wish they would lower prices too, but it’s high prices that lets them blow so much on R&D.

      • He’s has a point though. A lot of these things the new Apple products have are just reused concepts. A new TV? Like there aren’t a million of those already…

      • No, it won’t just be a new TV, it will be the new “revolutionary” iTV. Would I like an Apple TV? HELL YEAH. Could I afford it? HELL NO. Until they lower prices, I’ll be forced to look elsewhere for products other than the iPhone.

  • I would laugh so hard if Apple didnt even come out with an “iTV” or whatever its called

  • These TV concepts look a lot like currently available products. If “Google purposefully ripped off iOS” (your own words, Ziberg), wouldn’t Apple, in this case, be the one who is ripping off everyone else?

  • ReanimationXP

    You posted a YouTube slideshow video.. really?

    • Mark Smith

      that was another guy