For a long time now we've heard Apple has television prototypes in the lab, but nothing even approaching a final design or go-to-market plan for the product. According to the Wall Street Journal, nothing has changed in that regard.

Two people said Hon Hai Precision Industry Co., 2317.TW +0.63% which assembles the iPhone and iPad, has been collaborating with Japan's Sharp Corp. 6753.TO +7.80% on the design of the new television. "It isn't a formal project yet. It is still in the early stage of testing," said one of the people.

Jony Ive is almost certainly doing the design, though Hon Hai and Sharp are just as likely collaborating on the prototypes.

The late Steve Jobs famously said the go-to-market strategy for a television was even more difficult than a phone, with entrenched, regionalized monopoly cable companies and future-adverse content providers. The Apple TV set top box has often been called a "hobby" compared to the serious business of Apple's iPhone, iPod, iPad, and Mac product lines.

In a recent interview, Apple's CEO, Tim Cook escalated Apple's living room plans from hobby to "area of intense interest".

Making a television, or even a decoupled panel to along with a more easily upgradable brain box, would give Apple control of "input zero", or the initial startup and default user experience, and relegate everything from cable and satellite boxes to game consoles like the Xbox, to other media streamers like Roku to inputs further down the chain.

Yet panels remain a limited, low-margin business, and no matter how smart the brain or brain-box, and how good the user experience, it would be tough for Apple to disrupt even the current, pathetic status quo without compelling content offerings, including live events, news, sports, and the other living room staples.

My guess remains that we'll keep seeing the slow, steady evolution of the current Apple TV product for now, with more and more channel partners like Netflix and Hulu coming on line. Apple can be remarkably patient. If the goal is a unified interface to search across all content, find the program you want, and watch it when you want, that can be broken down into manageable steps. If they can't overcome the myopia of cable and content companies, they can outmaneuver it or simply outlast it.

Apple shareholders are anxious about the timing and nature of the company's plans. While iPhones and iPads are selling briskly, they believe television could be one of the next big catalysts for Apple's business as those products eventually peter out. Apple shares fell to $541.39 on Tuesday from all-time high of $702.10 in September amid concerns about the company's future profits and growth.

Apple has had 3 big products. It was decades between the Mac and iPod, and over a half a decade between the iPod and iPhone (and its iPad offshoot). Treating Apple like Hollywood or the video game industry, and expecting them to deliver blockbusters on a year basis is folly and will likely be rewarded as such.

It's normal for people to want the "next big thing" -- if and when Apple ships a television, Apple iCar rumors will probably spring up within weeks if not seconds -- but it's just as normal for Apple to follow a far saner, and more measured product strategy.

Source: Wall Street Journal