After speaking with Apple execs, analyst says no TV anytime soon

Even after The Wall Street Journal reported that Apple is working with cable providers on a digital set-top box, iTV rumors have continued to swirl. It’s been that way for several months now, despite the fact that there’s zero evidence.

A majority of the speculation has come from analysts, who point to supply chain channel checks and other sources as proof Apple is preparing to enter the TV industry. But after speaking with the company’s top executives, this analyst says that an ATV set is very unlikely in the near future…

Fortune passes along a note from Pacific Crest analyst Andy Hargreaves, who recently sat down and talked with Apple’s CFO Peter Oppenheimer and SVP Eddy Cue. And according to Hargreaves, an Apple Television isn’t coming:

“Relative to the television market, Eddy Cue, Apple SVP of Internet Software and Services, reiterated the company’s mantra that it will enter markets where it feels it can create great customer experiences and address key problems. The key problems in the television market are the poor quality of the user interface and the forced bundling of pay TV content, in our view. While Apple could almost certainly create a better user interface Mr. Cue’s commentary suggested that this would be an incomplete solution from Apple’s perspective unless it could deliver content in a way that is different from the current multichannel pay TV model.”

The report notes that SEC rules prohibit the sharing of insider information that might affect a company’s stock (which the revelation of an Apple TV set certainly would), so Hargreaves’ interpretation of Cue’s comments should be taken lightly. On the surface, Cue’s response sounds like the same old “we don’t discuss future products.”

If I were a betting man, I’d say Apple has an awesome idea for a television, and probably even has a few prototypes in its secret labs. But its inability to reach direct deals with content providers has completely stalled the project.

That’s because the only other option, other than delivering its own pay TV service, is to provide a digital front end solution for current cable users. And if that’s the case, why build a whole TV set, when a digital set-top box will do?