Apple's Mac iTV: Tech Rumor

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) - Sketchy details from the supply and manufacturing channels have sparked more speculation around Apple's ( AAPL) plans to make a TV/computer hybrid device as early as next year.

This Mac iTV, for lack of a better name, is expected to be an all-in-one TV with a 26-inch touchscreen display that also serves as a video management console, according to people familiar with some of the product's technical specifications. These people are only able to speculate on the final product, though.
Apple

The conjecture echoes some of the predictions made last week by Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster, who called for a "connected HDTV" from Apple in 2012.

If the details and speculation are true, the Mac iTV would finally eliminate the need for yet another set-top box, a problem that has vexed consumers and Apple chief Steve Jobs for years.

The rumors come as Apple looks to shift its next version of its Apple TV set-top box from Intel ( INTC) chips to an ARM ( ARMH)-based processor that is similar, if not the same, as the A4 processors running iPads and iPhone 4s, according to a report Wednesday from Kaufman analyst Shaw Wu. The shift would clear the way for streaming video rather than storing shows on a hard drive.

Apple is expected to announce its new Apple TV set-top box on Sept. 7 along with a buck-a-show rental offering through its iTunes store.

This isn't likely to be the last we will hear from Apple about its TV effort. For the past three years, Apple has shown a dogged determination to make a product that uses the Internet to deliver video to the TV. But the challenges have been daunting.

One of the biggest hurdles is the mishmash of TV programming systems and an advertising-driven legacy that broadcasters and media companies aren't particularly eager to dismantle.

One thing Steve Jobs has been eager to do is dismantle the set-top box.

At the AllThingsDigital conference earlier this summer, Jobs talked about his company's failed attempts at bringing Apple TV to the masses: "The only way that's going to change is if you tear up the set top box, give it a new UI, and get it in front of consumers in a way they're going to want it," Jobs said.

With the Mac iTV, Apple would hope to repeat what it did in phones by ushering in touchscreen controls to replace the existing knobs and buttons that we use to run our TVs.

Apple's jump into hybrid computer TVs would open a key new market for the tech shop, which needs more product hits to keep up the momentum of the iPhone and iPad. But as the history of TV -- from Zenith to Admiral -- has shown, the path is fraught with failures.

-- Written by Scott Moritz in New York.

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