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Analyst Brian White with Ticonderoga Securities has been at a China electronics trade show this week, and said in a note to investors that he picked up "data points" that point toward a "Smart TV" launch by Apple, possibly by the end of the year.
"Our research suggests this Smart TV would go well beyond the miniature $99 second-generation Apple TV that the company released last fall and provide a full-blown TV product for consumers," White said.
He went on to say that although Apple has long been projected by company watchers to enter the HDTV market, the Mac maker now appears to be "moving down this path at a faster pace than the market expected."
"The combination of Apple's powerful ecosystem, industrial design savvy, powerful brand and ability to reinvent product categories could make Apple a powerful force in the TV world over the next few years," he said.
The biggest pusher of a prospective Internet-connected HDTV from Apple has been analyst Gene Munster of Piper Jaffray. Munster has repeatedly forecast that Apple will introduce such a product in the coming years, with a starting price of around $2,000.
Such a product could be paired with a subscription service to iTunes, allowing users to access content and services at a flat subscription rate that would negate the need for a cable box and digital video recorder. However, White's note gave no indication of potential features of such a product. Apple also has a great deal of experience with high-definition displays on its iMac desktop, including its big-screen 27-inch iMac, first released in 2009.
Earlier this year, Apple revealed it had invested $3.9 billion of its cash reserves in securing key components for products. Many have assumed that money has gone toward securing displays for its range of products, including the iPhone and iPad.
But Munster said in February he believes that $3.9 billion investment is just more evidence of a forthcoming Apple HDTV. He believes Apple could build a television set up to 50 inches in size, though he predicted earlier this year that such a product would not launch until the end of calendar year 2012 at the earliest.