Could Apple’s iTV be OLED? No, but that hasn’t stopped speculation

If we had a nickel for every rumor about Apple’s long-awaited HD TV, we could probably manage to build the mythical set for ourselves … then we could lay the iTV rumor mill to rest once and for all. But since we’re short on nickels, we’ll have to settle for hoping that perhaps we’re getting close to the day Apple finally takes the wraps off its take on a TV. With that in mind, this most recent rumor comes out of the burgeoning mecca for HD TVs, South Korea, and the buzzword of the day is OLED.

In a report broken by the Korean Herald, South Korean analyst Lee Seung-woo of IBK Securities is quoted saying that an “unnamed” South Korean company is manufacturing 65-inch OLED sample panels “…for Apple’s iTV in collaboration with Apple.” Woo goes on to say that Apple “…is still running tests,” and that it is not certain whether the company will use said displays for any actual iTV in the works.

In this case, “not certain” is an understatement. Cherry picked from the litany of reasons this latest bit of iTV gossip is suspect is the most obvious point about OLED, which raises a big red flag. Though the technology is widely considered to deliver the most accurate and gorgeous picture quality available, it is notoriously unstable, difficult to mass produce, and expensive. Damned expensive. To give an idea of how far OLED sits outside of the mainstream market for HD TVs, take a look at LG’s curved 55-inch EA9800, which has been given a recent 45 percent price slash on Amazon, and still sits around the $6,000 mark.

While Apple products are known for their intuitive operating systems, gorgeous form factor, and mostly-reliable performance, they’re also usually priced at the top tier of their respective segments. We don’t even want to think about the top-tier of OLED TVs in the current market – not without a trust fund any way.

This most recent rumor is eerily similar to a report last October hinting that Apple’s alleged project was moving into the realm of 4K displays. That rumor seemed similarly implausible due to the fact that the source in the story claimed Apple would offer 55 and 65-inch 4K displays, with all the stylish Apple extravagances we’ve come to expect, for an industry-low price of around $1,500 to $2,500 – and you know what they say about something that sounds too good to be true.

Interestingly, the Korean Herald report claims that during the same time period in which the rumored 4K news broke, Apple scrapped its existing timeline for an iTV release in order to transition from LCD technology to the more innovative OLED panel design. The report quotes a “source close to the matter” who said, “Around 2 million Apple iTVs with 65 and 77-inch liquid crystal displays were expected to hit the market in the second half of this year. However, Apple employees visited this local company in October 2013 to delay the plans to next year.”

Delaying the plans to next year seems to be Apple’s MO when it comes to creating its own TV. Rumors have been circulating about this unicorn of the HD TV universe since long before Apple’s founder and visionary leader Steve Jobs’ untimely death. And every few months, a new log is added to the fire.

Apple is definitely planning something, however. Apart from rumors both in 2012, and most recently last February from CEO Tim Cook about “new categories” to add to the company’s product line, Apple has also reportedly been speaking with the great and powerful Comcast, in apparent attempts to broker some sort of quid pro quo media partnership. The alleged deal would purportedly allow an Apple media delivery system of some sort to ride the rails of Comcast’s ubiquitous Internet pipelines with exclusive access to streamlined video delivery. The deal could potentially give both companies a leg up on the emerging realm of Internet TV.

However, as Apple continues to wade tentatively in and out of the HD TV waters, the Internet TV paradigm seems to have taken a shift towards more modular content delivery methods, making it seem increasingly less likely that any piece of hardware in Apple’s future will be of the full-blown big screen variety. With the company’s Apple TV securing over $1 billion in revenue last year, and a growing demand for smart devices like Chromecast, Roku, and Amazon’s new FireTV, the argument against the need for a TV with any real brains built in becomes more and more persuasive.

As always, we’ll simply have to wait and see what Apple has in store for its TV future. The company appears ever-content to keep us in the dark, debating and forecasting about a time when consumers can purchase a flatscreen with fruit on the label. As for us, we’ve seen those following the Cupertino crowd cry wolf far too many times in this department. Until we see something in the flesh, we’re not buying it.

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