Apple Inc. is in talks with Canada's two biggest telecom companies about becoming partners in the launch of iTV, a device combining features of the wildly popular iPad tablet with those of a television set, a newspaper reported on Tuesday.
Rogers Communications and BCE, parent of Bell Canada, are already testing the device in their labs, Canada's Globe and Mail newspaper reported, citing an unnamed source.
Cupertino-based Apple has neither confirmed nor denied speculation that it was working on iTV, which the industry believes would involve a new device enabling a user to buy and view licensed content, along the lines of the iTunes model.
Even so, the company's late co-founder Steve Jobs revealed to biographer Walter Isaacson he was interested in reinventing the television set. I finally cracked it, he told Isaacson in his book Steve Jobs.
The Globe and Mail on Tuesday reported that Apple is eager to find Canadian partners with Internet and wireless experience.
They're not closed to doing it with one or doing it with two, a source familiar with the talks told the newspaper. They're looking for a partner. They're looking for someone with wireless and broadband capabilities.
Rogers and BCE offer telephone, Internet and television services to Canadian customers, and both own content that could be featured over an iTV service.
Jefferies analyst Peter Misek had previously suggested Bell and Rogers would make suitable partners, and that U.S. carriers AT&T and Verizon would likely also offer the product in the United States.
Analysts see television as a natural progression for Apple, which has built a massive library of content for its iPhones and iPads. Most expect any future Apple TV product to incorporate gaming, video communication, content delivery, apps and computing capabilities - all controlled by voice commands.
Apple already sells a set-top box called Apple TV that streams available content to a conventional television set and allows the viewer to use an iPhone or other Apple device to control it.
Spokespeople for Rogers and BCE declined to comment on the report. Apple did not respond to a request for comment.
(Reporting By Alastair Sharp)