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Apple iTV Really, Really Happening This Time, Says Analyst

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Well, Apple's (AAPL) iPad event came and went last week, and it marked yet another product unveiling that didn't feature an HDTV set bearing an Apple logo. While Cupertino did give its Apple TV "hobby" a much-welcome upgrade, the set-top box line is over five years old and has yet to shake up the home entertainment industry as much as an iTunes- and Netflix-enabled (NFLX) iPad. Hence the "hobby" assignment. But many analysts and consumers alike view a full-fledged Apple iTV set as something that would completely disrupt the antiquated cable subscription -- much more so than what Google TV (GOOG), TiVo (TIVO), WDTV (WDC), Roku, Boxee, and every other media center or Smart TV has done to date.

And Jefferies analyst Peter Misek has once again said it's coming.

Echoing the behind-the-scenes look Piper Jaffray (PJC) analyst Gene Munster was reportedly granted earlier this year, Misek met with similar "unnamed sources" during a trip to Asia and now believes the Apple iTV is absolutely, positively going to happen.

In a note to investors, he wrote, "Specialty components have begun to ship to Apple's Asia panel suppliers with polarized films, filters, and IGZO components starting to move in small quantities." In terms of a launch date, Misek doesn't think it'll be that far off. "We expect commercial production in May/June with 2M to 5M builds likely. We still expect a CQ4 launch."

Last month, the Globe and Mail reported that such a set already exists, according to inside sources, and that the product was already being tested in their labs. In light of this report, Misek said that Apple was in a "good position" to leverage relationships with top carriers. And supposedly, Canadian broadband carriers Rogers Communication (RCI) and Bell Canada (BCE) already have their hands on the prototypes and are in talks to carry it. Misek added that AT&T (T) and Verizon (VZ) would likely carry the iTV in the States.

Aside from the corporate cloak-and-dagger info, other evidence has emerged that hints at an Apple iTV release.

The "hypothetical" product was the highlight of a curious survey conducted by Best Buy (BBY) which queried consumers on how likely they'd buy a 42" Apple HDTV for $1,499. Even stranger, the rhetoric used in the survey was written as if the product was actually confirmed and already set to launch. (But admittedly, it wasn't as strange as the feature list hyping support for Microsoft's (MSFT) Skype rather than Apple's proprietary FaceTime.)

Adding fuel to the rumor fire, AppleInsider uncovered a patent filed by Apple for a universal remote app, complete with DVR controls and the ability to operate a variety of devices, such as a DVD player, a stereo, a computer, and -- yes -- a TV.

And just this weekend, CBS (CBS) chief Les Moonves told the Hollywood Reporter that Steve Jobs had approached him about providing content for a television service, but Moonves turned him down. "I told Steve, 'You know more than me about 99 percent of things but I know more about the television business,'" the studio head related.

But perhaps by the end of the year, Moonves will see what Jobs meant when he said he "cracked the code" to the TV industry and find himself and his network left behind.

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POSITION:  No positions in stocks mentioned.

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