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Wednesday, November 23, 2011, 05:34 am PT (08:34 am ET)

Apple television expected in mid-2012 as competition is 'scrambling'

Commercial production of Apple's anticipated television set is expected to begin in February at a Sharp plant in Japan, while competing HDTV makers are reportedly desperate to find out just what Apple plans to sell.

Jefferies analyst Peter Misek said in a note to investors this week that Apple is expected to partner with Sharp for TFT-LCD panels for its so-called "iTV." Production is expected to begin in February at the company's Gen 10 Sakai facility in Osaka, Japan, placing the television set in position for a mid-2012 launch.

Apple's expected entrance into the television market is said to have sent other TV makers "scrambling" to identify what the features of the product may be.

"They hope to avoid the fate of other industries and manufacturers who were caught flat footed by Apple," Misek wrote. "Having said that, it appears that mainstream TV manufacturers are likely to be at least 6 to 12 months behind in a best-case scenario."

TV makers are said to be looking at Android as a potential option to counter Apple's anticipated television set. In that scenario, the television market would act much like the current smartphone landscape, with manufacturers making the hardware and Google providing the operating system.

TV makers are said to be looking to Android because they lack the software and cloud capabilities Apple already offers. Earlier reports have also suggested that Apple will implement its proprietary voice recognition service, Siri, to allow controller-free navigation and further differentiate itself from current products on the market.

Rumors of an Apple television set picked up considerable steam with the release of the authorized biography of Steve Jobs. To biographer Walter Isaacson, Jobs hinted at a completely new product that would feature "the simplest user interface you could imagine."

HDTV


In an interview published last week, Isaacson revealed that before he died, Jobs had three products he wanted to reinvent, with the television being first among them, followed by textbooks and photography. Jobs reportedly felt there was "no reason" for televisions to be as difficult to use as they currently are.

Misek's timeframe for a mid-2012 Apple television launch is slightly more aggressive than some other rumors have suggested. For example, last month The New York Times forecast Apple to announce the product by late 2012, with it going on sale to consumers by 2013.