There are always plenty of rumours swirling around about Apple. But the latest has the potential to pit Apple up against the world’s TV manufacturers with the release of a Smart TV. Combine Apple’s compact second-generation Apple TV network player with a big-screen TV with sufficient CPU capacity to support online purchasing of content and that’s the new Smart TV rumour in a nutshell.

The Smart TV isn’t new – Samsung, Sony and others are already plying consumers with TVs featuring built-in internet for watching and renting content online. However as others have pointed out, the problem TV makers face is that they need to join with content providers to give consumers that something “online” watch.

Apple, however, with its huge iTunes network, has no such problem. In effect, an Apple Smart TV would be the new-generation Apple Computer or iPod, where the company not only sells the content but sells you its own branded hardware to go with it.

However, rumours of this sort have been flying around for years. editor Matthew Powell recently told the Sydney Morning Herald that Apple had a go at an Apple-branded TV back in 1994. The Sony-manufactured TV however was not a success.

What’s giving the rumour air at the moment are reported comments from Ticonderoga Securities analyst, Brian White, who after returning from a China electronics trade show, said he believed there was enough evidence to suggest Apple was giving it another look.

Certainly with the way TV prices have been falling in the last two years, the competition in the TV market is as fierce as it’s ever been. However, combining TV hardware with iTunes, on the surface at least, makes for a winning combination.

But the concept raises a few questions. First, whether Apple has the ability to cope logistically with handling the sheer physical size of a TV that could be up to 50-inches as is being reported in some quarters. Apple has been making its name with small and portable in recent times. A smart TV would be neither of those.

Another issue is warranty. Consumers will want, and expect, an Apple TV to have the same warranty servicing as the major TV manufacturers. Basically, Apple will need to compete head-on with the big-name brands in after-sales service.

However, in an era where Apple is seemingly all about making devices smaller and more portable, a Smart TV would definitely be a product straight out of left field. It doesn’t really make any sense. There is little margin to be had in TVs these days and consumers will find it hard to stomach a sizeable price premium just to have iTunes access on their TV.

While the idea is cool, it would probably make more sense for Apple to partner with an existing TV maker such as Panasonic or Samsung. This way, it doesn’t need to worry about logistics or warranty issues with the hardware and it can just take care of ensuring iTunes does its thing.

As always with Apple, we’ll just have to wait and see.

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