What if Apple isn’t building a TV set?

Fortune ran an interesting article last night entitled “Tell me again. Why we think Apple will make a TV set?” The piece outlines the sketchy details surrounding one of the most anticipated, unannounced consumer products in recent memory: the Apple TV set.

Rumors that Apple has been working on a television have been bouncing around for years now. Started by analysts and fueled by “supply chain checks,” the speculation regarding an Apple TV has reached epic proportions. But has it all been for nothing?

“No one has championed the idea of an Apple-branded TV set longer or more enthusiastically than Piper Jaffray’s Gene Munster, who has been writing about it since 2009. But what set him going down this path? The answer came in a Munster profile published last Friday in Bloomberg Businessweek:

“Somebody close to Apple said we needed to be doing more work on the television and that started it all,” Munster says. ” YOu start with these crumb trails, then it turns into a dirt road, now it’s a paved road.”

Indeed it is. But what if Munster’s tipster was trying to lead him to Apple TV, the set-top box, and not some still-mythical TV set?”

The author also names several reasons why Apple wouldn’t want to to get into the TV space, including low profit margins, longer refresh cycles (people don’t buy TVs every year), and the fact that there isn’t a global standard for TV technology (NTSC, PAL, etc).

While these are all valid points, it’s hard to ignore the last several months of reports from various sources. For instance, The Globe and Mail, Canada’s largest newspaper, claimed that Apple was talking to Canadian networks about a TV set earlier this year.

Still, Fortune’s report does spark some interesting questions. What if all of the rumored “iTV” features — Siri, third-party applications, etc. — all wind up in a future iteration of the current Apple TV set top box, and not a full-blown TV set?

What do you think? Which route do you hope Apple takes?