Apple allegedly began assembly of iTV prototypes

According to a report out today from Chinese-language China Business News based on “informed sources”, Apple this month allegedly begun producing the first prototypes of its rumored HD TV set. As the first batch of iTVs get assembled, Cupertino is said to be ramping up production later this year…

Based on translation provided by the WantChinaTimes (via AppleInsider), Taiwanese product assembler Hon Hain Precision Industry (trading as Foxconn), Apple’s favorite contract manufacturer, has received orders for “smart” television sets from Apple.

Insider sources told China Business News that a Foxconn factory in Shenzhen has received orders for an Apple “smart TV” and is producing them on a trial basis.

Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster, arguably the biggest proponent of an Apple-branded television set, opined last week that a company should make a non-TV TV that will act as an iHub for your digital lifestyle.

It’ll be announced in December and hitting store shelves in 2013, Munster speculates.

Hopefully, it won’t be a “terrible use of retail space”, as Pacific Crest’s Andy Hargreaves argued recently.

On his part, Munster believes that an Apple television set could capture as much as ten percent of the global market in one to three years.

He called for a 32-inch display “with touch, gesture, voice and iPad control that can be hung on the wall wherever the family congregates for planning, talking, or eating”.

Another analyst chimed in, saying a television set from Apple will mark “a big seismic shift” in the television industry.

A nice Apple television render gets thrown in here for good measure.

Apple’s recently knighted design guru Jony Ive hinted in an interview with a British newspaper that he and his team have been working to “solve the same sort of problems we’ve been trying to solve over the last fifteen years”.

He also reassured fans that the best is yet to come from Apple, asserting that what the company is working on right now “feels like the most important and the best work we’ve done”.

And a questionable report published today by Insideris provides the following description of seamless Siri integration in iTV, based on an email tip from a shady source:

Imagine this: you are sitting on the train, heading to work and then realize this: oh cr*p, I forgot to set my TV to record the latest episode of the Mad Men.

So what do you do? You pick your iPhone or iPad with Siri and say: record TV Show Mad Men. And that’s it, iPhone + Apple TV will sync with a cloud, get your request and set your TV to record show for you! It’s pretty amazing and will change the way we interact with technology.

Ive and his team work from a secret bunker in Cupertino, California that holds “the future for the next three years”, according to Steve Jobs’ biographer Walter Isaacson.

In another nod, CEO Tim Cook said during a Goldman Sachs conference that Apple might have something “larger” in its TV arsenal than the $99 Apple TV set-top box.

Apple doesn’t do hobbies as a general rule. We believe in focus and only working on a few things. And so, with Apple TV, despite the barriers in that market, for those of us who use it, we’ve always thought that there was something there, and that if we kept following our intuition and kept pulling the string that we might find something that was larger.

As for the $99 hockey puck, Cook said that “for those people that have it right now, the customer satisfaction rating is off the chart” and then acknowledged that “we need something that could go more main market for it to become a serious category for the company”.

Despite selling 1.4 million units in Q4 2011, Apple continues to call the Apple TV set-top (originally code-named the iTV) box its “hobby” project.

And if that wasn’t enough, Cook said back in February that Apple is working on new products that will “blow your mind”reiterating a month later that Apple’s pipeline for 2012 is “full of stuff”.

I think our customers are going to be incredibly pleased with what they see coming out.

Opponents to the iTV idea often argue Apple cannot compete in the cut-throat television biz.

Enter Xie Qinyi, DisplaySearch vice president for Greater China, who named Apple’s four distinct advantages: “a large number of customers dedicated to its brand, abundant funding, a rich content platform and a profound understanding of display panel technology”.

The latter could prove quintessential to the experience, especially if Apple taps Sharp’s next-generation IGZO panels.

Apple’s manufacturing partner Foxconn recently secured a stake in Sharp that also gives it control over Sharp’s cutting-edge display plant in Japan.

Though CEO Terry Gou dropped hints that his company was readying iTV production, the company quickly issued a denial saying Gou’s comments had been widely misinterpreted.

What’s your take, can Apple make a difference in the television space?

Chime with your thoughts down in the comments.