Rumors that technology giant Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) could buy Elon Musk’s electric-car superstar Tesla Motors Inc. (NASDAQ: TSLA) continue to float in Silicon Valley and throughout the Internet. But two other smaller partnerships between the tech firms might be more likely to see the light of day than an outright acquisition.

That’s the take of Bilal Liaqat, a hedge fund analyst writing on the Seeking Alpha investment platform. He surmised that it is possible Tesla could consider incorporating iOS, Apple’s operating system, into touchscreen displays for the plug-in Model S vehicles. Musk, the carmaker’s founder and chief executive, has previously said that the Android operating system was rejected early on for Tesla cars because it wasn’t yet primed for use inside cars. “A Tesla iCar,” as Liaqat put it Wednesday, “would undoubtedly be the hottest vehicle to hit the market.”

Excited murmuring around a possible Apple-Tesla connection first emerged last fall after Adnaan Ahmad, a Berenberg Bank analyst, issued an open letter to Apple’s top brass calling on the company to buy Tesla. And earlier this year, the San Francisco Chronicle revealed that Musk met quietly with Adrian Perica, Apple’s head of mergers and acquisition, in Cupertino, California, in early 2013.

In a February interview with Bloomberg TV, Musk declined to divulge what that meeting was about. He confirmed that Tesla was in talks with Apple but wouldn’t comment on a possible partnership or merger with “one or more companies” that might have approached Tesla recently.

While technophiles and deep-pocketed investors are left guessing, Liaqat has a second idea for a possible partnership: Tesla’s $5 billion “gigafactory.” Musk announced plans for the factory in February.

If built, it would be able to produce enough battery packs to power 500,000 vehicles every year. Exact details -- like the factory’s location or a timetable for breaking ground -- haven’t yet been disclosed, but conceivably the plant could produce batteries to power other gadgets too -- namely, Apple’s, Liaqat said.

“With Tesla’s gigafactory on the way, it is possible that … Apple -- and not Tesla -- could be on the gaining end,” he wrote.