In what appears to be further evidence that Apple is considering the launch of a TV, the company has reportedly contacted at least one component maker about the capabilities of its displays.
"We recently spoke to a major TV component supplier who has been contacted by Apple regarding various capabilities of their television display components," Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster wrote in a note to investors today. "We see this as continued evidence that Apple is exploring production of a television."
Munster said previous evidence included meetings in Asia earlier this month that led the analyst to believe the company was getting ready to invest in the manufacture of LCD screens ranging in size from 3.5-inch mobile displays to 55-inch TVs. A contact "close to an Asian supplier" told Munster last September that prototypes of an Apple TV were already in the works.
Munster said he believes the company would "likely" launch a TV by the end of the year but that timing was "uncertain." "The hardware could be ready quickly, but the timing and scope of a revamped TV content solution is unclear," he wrote.
Noting that Apple only enters markets with the goal of reinventing them (such as smartphones and MP3 players), Munster said he sees an opportunity for Apple to revolutionize the way consumers enjoy programming on their TVs and mobile devices.
"Without a revamped TV content solution, we do not think Apple enters the TV market," Muster wrote. "Since we know Apple is exploring television hardware, we are therefore led to conclude that the company is exploring a solution for live TV, and this solution could be one that has not yet been taken mainstream."
The analyst outlined three scenarios for delivering live TV content, including simply enabling the TV to manage a live TV service from within a unified interface, as well as offering access to live TV from network programming in combination with Web-based video services. Apple could also offer monthly content subscriptions on an a-la-carte basis--a scenario Munster described as "the most challenging scenario due to existing licensing arrangements."
Apple representatives did not immediately respond to CNET's request for comment.
Executives from Apple have reportedly discussed their plans with media executives at several companies, including a planned technology that would allow people to change TV channels or search for programming by using voice commands.
Munster, who has long been trumpeting the possibility of an Apple-made TV set, first floated the notion in 2009 that Apple would take a bite out of the TV market in 2011 by introducing its first television. In August, he once again said that an Apple television was coming, but he now believed it would launch in late 2012 or early 2013.
Munster wrote last June that Apple's iCloud infrastructure makes it all the more plausible. That argument gained more credibility with the publishing of Walter Isaacson's authorized Steve Jobs biography, which included a quote from the Apple co-founder saying that he had "cracked" the code for creating an integrated television.
"I'd like to create an integrated television set that is completely easy to use," Jobs told his biographer. "It would be seamlessly synched with all of your devices and with iCloud. It will have the simplest user interface you could imagine. I finally cracked it."