Rumor: Apple to start “iPanel” HDTV production in May

Barron’s, a financial arm of The Wall Street Journal’s web network, passes on an interesting report today from Jefferies & Co.’s Peter Misek. The analyst has upped his stock price target for Apple to $800 per share on the back of new information regarding a TV set.

In an investor’s note, sent out this morning, Misek said that his recent trip to China has given him “increased confidence” that Apple will be launching a TV this year. He claims, among other things, that he saw television components en route to Apple suppliers…

These components, he says, are “polarized films, filters, and IGZO parts.” IGZO stands for indium, gallium, zinc, oxide — a semiconducting material that has the potential to produce a display with a resolution higher than full HD (1080p).

Sharp has been on the forefront of IGZO display research. And what do you know, Hon Hai, the parent company of Apple’s manufacturing partner Foxconn, reportedly just purchased a large stake in the company. Misek explains:

“Hai and its related entities are the largest shareholder (with a 6% stake) in Chimei Innolux, which is the largest LCD display manufacturer in Taiwan. Recent reports note that Chimei Innolux is running at 80% capacity utilization for its large-size panels, which leads us to believe that Hon Hai’s Sharp investment is less about securing capacity and more about its relationship with Apple and the upcoming launch of iTV. We believe that Sharp and Apple had modified IGZO technology to make much-improved HD displays. The Sharp relationship will enable Apple to diversify away from Samsung and gain additional display capacity with leading-edge technology.”

Except Misek doesn’t think Apple will call its television set the “iTV.” For some reason, he thinks Apple will go with the [unlikely] name “iPanel,” because it will be “so much more than a TV. It’s a display, gaming center, media hub, computer, home automator, etc.”

The analyst believes the set will go into commercial production in May or June of this year, with an initial run between 2-5 million units.

It sounds awesome. We’ll take two.