Foxconn reportedly testing 46 to 55-inch Apple television sets

iTV under Christmas tree

A new rumor out from Apple’s supply chain in Asia has it that Foxconn, the world’s largest (and Apple’s favorite) contract manufacturer is testing some badass television panels with the shining Apple logo on them. But don’t get your hopes up high, because shipments of iTVs are unlikely to begin before 2014.

The rumor corroborates last week’s report by The Wall Street Journal claiming Apple is working with component suppliers in Asia to test several TV-set designs. Unnamed manufacturing sources also warn that the possibility of Apple using IGZO display panels from Sharp “is not high” as the firm is allegedly testing display panels ranging from 46 to 55 inches diagonally…

A recent survey by AlphaWise and Morgan Stanley taught us that more than half the respondents would be willing to pay a premium for an HD TV with the Apple logo on it. Tim Cook said in his interview with NBC that television remains “an area of intense interest” for the company.

Panel sizes (46 to 55 inches) could mean that Foxconn will not need to get its supply exclusively from Sharp. Instead, the story goes, Apple will source iTV panels from either Japanese or Taiwanese suppliers.

“We have not yet confirmed the LCD panel supply source with our client”, the source said.

Foxconn CEO Terry Gou recently acquired an ownership stake in Sharp’s cutting-edge Sakai plant which focuses on producing 60-inch LCD panels. Sharp recently launched a nice 32-inch IGZO monitor for pros with 4K resolution and announced its own tablets incorporating IGZO panels.

He paid for a 46.48 percent stake out of his own pocket and said the Sakai facility has an exclusive agreement with Corning on large panel supply “so our competitors won’t be able to secure any glass even if they want it”.

iTV mockup (AllThingsD 004)

Focus Taiwan, the country’s national news gathering organization, quoted Foxconn sources Wednesday saying that initial testing of Apple television sets is underway at Foxconn.

The source also predicted that Apple TV shipments could be huge and that new Apple TV-related products might be put on display at the well-known international consumer electronics trade fair, CES, to be held in Las Vegas in January.

Apple in the past avoided CES and instead made announcements at the MacWorld Expo, which runs each January. However, the company in 2010 announced it would no longer attend that trade show in order to focus on its own media events at its Cupertino campus.

With Tim Cook now in charge, Apple could be re-thinking its media strategy. After all, Cook is his own man and such a high-profile consumer electronics launch deserves a high-profile showing at the world’s top international consumer electronics trade fair.

Is this iTV thing getting closer to reality?