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WSJ reports Apple has tested TV designs -- don't get too excited

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In a saga that makes its lawsuit against Samsung seem like only a brief moment in time, the rumors of an Apple-built HDTV are going around again. After CEO Tim Cook dropped a nugget about TV being an intense area of interest in interviews a few days ago (the exact same thing he said in May), now the Wall Street Journal is reporting rumors from suppliers that it has, for several years, tested designs in concert with companies like Sharp and Foxconn. Of course, reading beyond the headline reveals deep caveats like "Apple ... works with suppliers to test new designs all the time" and "Apple could opt not to proceed with the device" as well as referencing older rumors about team ups with cable or satellite companies, which should let you know that really, nothing has changed.

Since this rumor will never die, and the hype will continue to flow when Apple and HDTV are mentioned in the same breath, we'll spell it out for you one more time: no matter what they say or don't say, Apple is -- like nearly every other technology company -- extremely interested in developing products for your living room. They were under Steve Jobs, they are with Tim Cook at the helm. Unfortunately, for reasons ranging from studio licensing agreements to DRM to a lack of access to pay-TV provider data/content, it's very difficult to do with the level of polish and control of experience Apple would like. Microsoft and Sony are spending billions of dollars on their Xbox 360 and PS3 just to grab a foothold in this market, with varying levels of success, while Google's TV project has experienced even tougher growing pains.

CBS executive Leslie Moonves explained on a conference call around this time last year why his company had declined to partner with Apple. Read those comments, and you'll probably feel as we do -- until the various regulatory and/or commercial gatekeepers to premium content in the living room change their minds about how the TV business works, it remains just as unlikely that we'll ever experience the products of Apple's tests for ourselves.

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