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Report: Apple TV set could be coming this year

The longstanding supposition that Apple is cooking up a TV has once again surfaced. This time an analyst says the company could launch such a product by year's end.

A normal TV running the Apple TV interface.
A normal TV running the Apple TV interface.

Apple continues to make headway into the living room with its Apple TV set-top boxes, HDMI-sporting Mac Minis, and the latest iPad, which can be hooked up to TV sets using a $39 AV adapter. But the prediction that keeps surfacing is that Apple plans to take a step out of the process of getting content to the TV by offering a TV set of its own.

In a note to investors, picked up by AppleInsider, Ticonderoga Securities analyst Brian White said that Apple was moving towards offering a TV set of its own "at a faster pace than the market expected," and could have that product launch by the end of the year. The proof to back up those claims are "data points" from the company's research.

Details of what such a set would offer were not included, short of saying that it would do more than Apple's existing $99 Apple TV device.

This, of course, is not the first time analysts have suggested Apple is hard at work on a connected TV set. An estimate around this time last year by Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster, who has been trumpeting the Apple-made TV set idea for years, projected Apple offering such a product in a two- to four-year time span. A more recent note by Munster from January suggested that an Apple-made TV was more likely to arrive sometime in 2012.

As for Apple TV rumor itself, one of the critical aspects is the idea of Apple offering a subscription service for content. For portable devices like the iPhone, iPod and iPad, offering music makes plenty of sense. But with something like a TV, the idea is best served with video content. Apple currently offers season passes for TV shows, but it does not scale to fit the pricing structures for multiple programs. The idea here would be to make it more like Netflix where there's a fee that covers multiple pieces of content.

Recent reports have claimed that Apple is on the verge of unveiling such a subscription service for video content, which will make use of its newest data center in North Carolina. Competitors like Amazon have already beaten Apple to the punch withtheir own streaming services, though they offer a smaller catalog of content than what Apple could potentially provide.

Adding fuel to the fire, Apple put out a job listing back in February for someone to work on "new power management designs and technologies," for use on various Apple products, including a "TV."

Apple itself has been building on the capabilities of the Apple TV, recently including new apps for MLB.TV and NBA League Pass. Rumors have also persisted that Apple intends to build in an application distribution system similar to the App Store on iOS and on the Mac OS, which would let users extend what the hardware is capable of post-purchase. This is something TV makers already offer, but that could prove to be highly profitable if combined with a subscription service too.