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Friday, August 17, 2012, 08:13 am PT (11:13 am ET)

Jefferies says Apple may have licensed JDSU's 'body gesture' sensors for next Apple TV

Equity research firm Jefferies on Friday raised its price target on shares of Apple to $900, saying it believes both the company's much rumored iPad mini and next-generation Apple TV device are in 'full production,' with the latter product potentially utilizing a new 'gesture control module' brought in through a third-party licensing agreement.

In a research note to clients, analyst Peter Misek said recent checks with Apple product manufacturer Foxconn indicate the company plans to build 25 million new iPads during the current third calendar quarter and another 30 million for the fourth quarter ending December.

Those figures, coupled with an uncharacteristic 5% monthly jump in Foxconn's revenues for the month of July, raise Misek's confidence that the ramp up of the company's much-rumored 7-inch iPad mini accounts for the spike in production, which in both cases is more than 50% greater than the analyst's current estimates of 16 million and 18 million for the two quarters, respectively.

Separately, Misek said that recent data out of Sharp, Hon Hai, and other specialty chemical and TV component suppliers support his belief that the company's next television-oriented product is also in "full production," a surprising claim given that the Wall Street Journal report just days ago that company had yet to reach licensing agreements with any cable operator over the product that it reportedly hopes to market as a cable box alternative.

Misek also believes that a recent revelation by JDSU that it has acquired a new new non-gaming customer for its gesture control modules may signal a partnership with Apple as part of the product.

They indicated this is a new "living room" based customer. We believe Apple will leverage AT&T's and Verizon's content deals for the iTV.

JDSU, or JDS Uniphase Corporation, designs and manufactures products for optical communications networks, communications test and measurement equipment, lasers, optical solutions for authentication and decorative applications, and other custom optics.

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Last month the Milpitas, Calif.-based company said it was ready to offer partners optical technology for gesture recognition systems that let a person control technology with natural body gestures instead of using a remote, mouse or other device:

JDSU near-infrared light source technology and optical coatings are integrated into gesture recognition platforms, such as a 3D sensor or set top box, to detect and extract external information from a person’s movements. The information is then mapped into a 3D image, and incorporated into the system so that a person can easily manipulate an application.

Examples include a gamer’s movements being tracked and translated within a video game, or a person in a living room using a hand gesture in front of TV to pull up a movie or a web site.

Interest on Apple's part to replace traditional input mechanisms like the television remote and computer mouse with gesture and motion sensors dates back more than three years to patent filings for a Nintendo Wii-like magic wand controller and body motion tracking in Mac OS X. However, friday's report of a potential licensing deal with JDSU for its body motion sensors appears to be the first indication that Apple could choose to outsource such technology for its living room initiative.

"We expect either the iPad Mini to launch in CQ4 with the iTV either launching in CQ4 or CQ1," Misek told clients.

Shares of Apple rose nearly $7, or roughly 1%, in early morning trading to a new all-time high of $644.