Apple’s supply chain is again churning out rumors regarding what comes next for the world’s top rated supply chain.

The Wall Street Journal and other media outlets are quoting sources within Apple’s contract manufacturing firm, Foxconn, as indicating that for the past several months, suppliers have been working on design prototypes of an Apple branded television.  Also noted is the inclusion of LCD manufacturing Sharp, who after issuing a dire financial warning, finally secured much needed infusion of $120 million in financing from Qualcomm. Sources have noted that the television is still in the early stages of testing. Interesting enough, Foxconn has begun assembling 60 inch HD televisions for Vizio, utilizing LCD panels produced by Sharp. Apple has long been rumored to be also working on designs for television set-top boxes but has run into resistance from cable operators.

On another note, The Wall Street Journal separately reported that Foxconn if facing obstacles in its plans to deploy large numbers of manufacturing assembly robots among its facilities. Foxconn officials are quoted as noting that robotic arms installed at some facilities can only perform simple, repetitive tasks. The other problem is the relatively short product life cycles that are prevalent in today’s consumer electronics products, which makes the setup and investment payback cycle rather challenging. Foxconn had hoped to have had 300,000 robotic arms installed by the end of this year, but that goal has been adjusted.  Some robots however will be targeted for dangerous jobs such as metal polishing.

While one never knows if these rumors are to fuel the increased hype for Apple and its product line-up, they do make for interesting hallway and cocktail chatter.  Consider them our gift for the generating conversations at the office holiday party.

Bob Ferrari