The Apple-branded TV set has long been a mythological creature: much talked about, but without any real evidence of its existence. However, this has seemingly changed in recent weeks. Apple CEO Tim Cook has indicated in an interview that his company is looking into televisions as more than a “hobby,” sparking further speculation of a possible Apple-branded TV (possibly named iTV?) within the near future.
Now, Taiwan’s Central News Agency reports that Apple’s main manufacturing partner Foxconn (otherwise known as Hon Hai Precision Industry) has already started initial testing of these TV sets.
The news agency cited an anonymous source from Foxconn as saying that while the initial phase of testing has already started, these devices are unlikely to start shipping within 2013.
The source also added that Apple was also unlikely to use display panels from the struggling Japanese manufacturer Sharp. Foxconn holds a stake in one of Sharp’s LCD panel factories that mainly manufactures 60-inch screens, but these components are far larger than the 46-inch to 55-inch panels needed for a prospective Apple iTV. As such, display panels from still-unknown Japanese or Taiwanese suppliers are likely to be used.
For its part, Foxconn has declined to comment on the report.
Apple has long been expected to move firmly into the living room, and its Apple TV set-top box has been seen as a test case that would eventually serve as the core of any prospective iTV. With gestures and voice commands already available on other manufacturer’s smart TVs, it is almost certain that Apple could try its hand at adding similar features. In particular, Cupertino is likely to leverage the technology behind Siri to enable fully-featured voice commands on its future TV sets.