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Thursday, January 12, 2012, 07:20 am PT (10:20 am ET)

Apple's rumored television is 'the elephant in the room' at CES 2012

HDTV makers have shown increased innovation at this year's Consumer Electronics Show, spurred in part by fears that Apple is planning an entrance into the market with its own television set.

Analyst Brian White with Ticonderoga Securities noted the many different kinds of TVs shown at CES this year, including large OLED panels, 4K LED TVs with four times the resolution of 1080p, improved smart TVs, and 3D TV without the need for glasses. But weighing over it all at this year's show is what he called "the elephant in the room" at CES 2012: an Apple television.

In speaking with industry insiders on the show floor, White said it is generally believed that Sharp will supply the display panel for Apple's anticipated television set. No other details or potential features were provided.

White previously predicted that an Apple television running iOS and featuring Siri voice control and FaceTime video chat would be a major earner for Apple in a market expected to generate $102 billion in 2012. Last April, before rumors of an Apple television began to pick up steam, White said Apple was moving at a "faster pace than the market expected" to launch an HDTV. He incorrectly suggested Apple could launch a TV as quickly as the end of 2011.

As for Apple's competition, if it does enter the TV market, both Samsung and LG Electronics are expected to unveil large OLED TVs this year. OLED technology can offer thinner design, lower power consumption and superior picture quality versus an LCD TV.

Sony has taken a different path from OLED with its own Crystal LED. At this year's show, Sony showed off a 55-inch Crystal LED, which the company said offers higher contrast, superior viewing angles, better colors and a faster response time than current television sets.

Sony

Sony's prototype Crystal LED display was unveiled at CES this week.


White said Sharp appears to be the most aggressive of companies building 4K LED TVs. The Japanese TV maker is expected to have a 4K set reach the market this year, and the company is already working on an 8K ultra-high-definition HDTV.

And though 3D TV largely faltered in 2011, White noted that Toshiba is pressing forward and could be first to market with a new 3D set that does not require glasses. However, he said he found a glasses-free TV from China-based TCL Corporation to offer "a more compelling experience."

Finally, "smart TVs" have also had a major presence at this year's CES, as new models will feature integrated applications, voice and motion control, and some will even be upgradeable with replaceable hardware components. White noted that most leading vendors have chosen Google and its Android-based Google TV platform as their partner of choice.