WSJ: Apple testing TV set designs with Asian suppliers

Finally, after months of listening to pundits and analysts wildly speculate on an Apple TV set, there’s actually some real evidence that it exists. Well, sort of. Citing the usual ‘people familiar with the matter,’ The Wall Street Journal is reporting that it has learned that the Cupertino company is working with component suppliers in Asia to test several TV-set designs…

From The Street’s scoop:

“Apple Inc. is working with component suppliers in Asia to test several TV-set designs, people familiar with the situation said, suggesting the U.S. company is moving closer to expanding its offerings for the living room. Officials at some of Apple’s suppliers, who declined to be named, said the Cupertino, Calif.-based company has been working on testing a few designs for a large-screen high-resolution TV…

“It isn’t a formal project yet. It is still in the early stage of testing,” said one of the people.”

The report says that Apple has been collaborating with both Foxconn and Sharp on the TV set design, which is interesting, because there has been a lot of talk about these two companies lately. Sharp is on the brink of bankruptcy and has been looking to Foxconn, and reportedly even Apple, for major cash investments in an effort to try and stay afloat.

Sharp was supposedly looking to get out of the TV panel business to focus more on its IGZO mobile displays, but its cutting edge Sakai plant is perfect for making 60+ inch LCD panels for TV sets. In fact, as The WSJ notes, Foxconn has been using panels from the plant to assemble 60-inch TVs for Vizio, a California-based low-cost, flat-panel TV vendor.

Of course, before we get too excited, there are a few other things worth note here. For one, the report also mentions that Apple has tested a number of TV set designs over the past few years. So this doesn’t mean it’s any closer to finishing it. And two, even when Apple does have a set ready for production, its release will still hinge on content deals, which are slow-moving.

“Plenty of hurdles remain. Apple doesn’t appear to have any deals with operators to sell such a device and getting them on board is likely to be challenging. The relationship between Apple, cable companies and content owners remains tense. Apple has tried repeatedly over the past few years to persuade entertainment companies to grant it rights for various kinds of TV offerings, with limited success.”

We’ve heard several rumors about the Apple TV set over the past few years, but recent chatter says that it will run between $1,500 and $2,000, and will come in sizes between 42 and 55-inches. As for features, it’ll include a built-in camera for FaceTime video calls, and a microphone for Siri integration. It’s also said to have an all-new, innovative remote.

For what it’s worth, there’s recently been some other movement by Apple on the TV front. Apple TV support for Bluetooth keyboards was just discovered in the latest iOS beta, and some strange banners were spotted in a user’s ATV menu. It’s hard to say what all of this means at the moment. But you have to admit, it looks like Apple is preparing to make a move.

What do you think?