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Report: Apple buying TV components to launch iTV this year?

The rumors have been strong about Apple’s TV concept coming to market in the near future, but like usual, we have nothing from the company to confirm whether or not those plans are really in the making. According to Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster, Apple has indeed been contacting component suppliers, which has led Munster to believe that an Apple-branded TV set could land in 2012. In a letter [via Forbes] on January 31, Munster told investors that he had spoken to one “major TV component supplier” that had been contacted by Apple about creating a connected HDTV. 

While Munster sees this as continued evidence that Apple is indeed planning to release a smart TV as early as late 2012, there’s skepticism about whether the company would even enter the market without a revolutionary idea to bolster an Apple TV set. Even Munster agreed that while the indicators are there, if Apple does not have a way to bring innovation to the somewhat fragmented connected TV market, the company may not enter the market at all. 

Munster also offered some thoughts on the various ways that Apple could offer a new smart TV solution to consumers. He outlined three different scenarios. 

The first is that Apple could enter the TV market by offering a DVR/TiVo-like management system of controlling programming that users would still get via their cable provider. This would be something relatively familiar to consumers, but Apple could additionally offer things like iTunes movie and series rentals directly through the TV. 

The second option that Munster details is that Apple could offer users live network television as well as a series of web-based services that could come in the form of video apps like Netflix and Hulu Plus. This interface could include many other apps as well as content from the iTunes store. 

The last option is that Apple could go for controlling the whole television experience by offering monthly subscriptions to users based on the kind of content that they are looking for, much like current cable providers. This could be difficult when licensing deals come into play, but it would be the most closed, Apple-heavy interface, which the company has veered toward before. 

Based on the current information (or lack thereof), we’d be surprised if an Apple TV made it into consumers’ hands by the end of the year. It’s hard to know just what Apple might be working on and how far along they could be, but we think that they’ll have to come up with something better than simply integrating iTunes into a user interface to really take the connected TV market by storm. Users haven’t seemed to enthused by the idea of purchasing movies and series episodes individually, and we don’t think that will be changing any time soon.