Sharp is not only providing iPad 3 "Retina Display" panels but HDTV screens for the upcoming "iTV" Apple television, analysts suggest, with the much-anticipated push into the living room tipped to arrive as early as mid-2012. The panel supplier is the beneficiary of Apple's attempts to shift dependence away from Samsung, according to a Jefferies & Co. research note cited by Bloomberg, with Apple tipped to take control of a full Sharp production line to produce custom amorphous TFT panels.
Although Apple has always been known for its close involvement with suppliers, the Sharp deal is said to escalate that collaboration to new levels. Apple has supposedly bought its own manufacturing equipment - using its hefty reserves of cash to cover hardware supposedly priced between $500m and $1bn - and will begin producing iPhone and iPad displays with exclusive space in one of Sharp's facilities imminently.
"Apple likes to go right to the factory floor, redesign the process, monitor it," Jefferies & Co. analyst Peter Misek wrote in the guidance note. "Except with Sharp it looks like they’re taking that one step further where they will actually own the intellectual property and physically own the equipment ... It gives Apple a partner that they can control manufacturing and secure supply at a lower price."
The exact functionality of the "iTV" is unclear, though Apple is believed to be leveraging its Siri digital personal assistant system to replace the traditional remote control. Integration with the cloud-based multimedia aspects of iOS 5.0 and iCloud are also likely, along with the ability to purchase and rent content directly from the TV set itself.