Rumor: iTV has Foxconn-made display, ships in early-2014

iTV mockup (Martin Hajek 002)

Earlier in the week, the somewhat reliable DigiTimes reported that Apple’s rumored standalone TV set could ship later this year with a 4K Ultra HD screen. Another report out from Asia has it that Apple’s contract manufacturer Hon Hai Precision Industry, better known as Foxconn, will supply high-resolution panels for the product.

Sources estimate Apple won’t start shipping its television set until next year at the earliest…

The claim comes via the Central News Agency, Taiwan’s official news agency which cited an inside source close to Foxconn who said Foxconn founder/Chairman/CEO Terry Gou actually met with Apple managers in Japan earlier this month to discuss large-sized panel shipments for the iTV.

This contradicts DigiTimes which asserted that Apple is banking on LG Display for most of its 4K panel production. On the other hand, Apple typically sources components from multiple suppliers in order to mitigate risk. Therefore, it’s perfectly plausible that Apple could rely on both LG Display and Foxconn to build these large-size panels.

The source would not discuss any specifics of the meeting which took place in Japan, but the story does confirm an earlier report by Japan’s Nikkei outlet. The source added Foxconn would probably ship the panels from its 10G panel plant in Japan’s Sakai, Osaka.

That’s actually a facility Foxconn’s boss purchased last year from the struggling Japanese giant Sharp in an effort to beat Samsung Display.

iTV mockup (Martin Hajek 005)

“I’m proud to say the cooperation with Sharp will let us beat Samsung in terms of clearness – high resolution,” Gou said at the time.

He paid for the Sakai plant out of his own pocket and noted the 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.”

Interestingly enough, Gou reportedly cancelled acquisition talks with Sharp because Samsung interfered in negotiations with its own takeover bid.

Although Sharp has already begun shipping its 32-inch panels to Samsung in the hope of turning an operating profit, the struggling firm could also supply Apple with iTV panels. Coincidentally or not, Sharp has pledged to install IGZO LCD panel mass production equipment at its No. 2 Kameyama Plant by July.

Bloomberg recently quoted an analyst who stated that the Foxconn-owned Sakai plant remains the CEO’s key focus.

Terry Gou doesn’t really care about Sharp anymore, he only cares about Sakai.

Now that Sharp is expected to prioritize supplying components for Samsung, Gou’s investment in the Sakai facility makes a lot of sense.

Why else would Foxconn CEO bother running a money-losing display plant unless he knew for a fact Apple would need large-size panels for a TV product?

In my view, the move is bound to pay off – provided, of course, Apple is indeed working on a TV product.

iTV renderings via 3D artist Martin Hajek.