Apple iTV to launch in 2012

Apple's next venture will be into the TV market, with Japanese firm Sharp set to produce the screens that will support both voice and gesture recognition controls - and it appears set to launch next year.

While it hasn't been confirmed by Apple, speculation surrounding iTV is growing among analysts and rival firms, who are looking to find out what the rumoured TV can do, reports The Guardian.

The buzz is that iTV will do for TV what the iPhone did for mobile phones, bringing applications and 'smart' capabilities into the mainstream.

Media centres and HTPCs have allowed for internet connectivity, social networking and the like via the TV for a few years now, but these technologies are still somewhat restricted to the technologically savvy. The idea behind the smart TV, or the iTV as Apple is apparently calling its device, is to bundle television programming with improved interaction and social media in one package.

With Apple fans around the world still mourning the loss of Steve Jobs, revelations in an authorised biography reveal that the Apple co-founder appeares to have been a real driving force behind the development of iTV.

He is quoted as saying: "I'd like to create an integrated television set that is completely easy to use. It would be seamlessly synced with all of your devices and with iCloud. It will have the simplest user interface you could imagine. I finally cracked it."

Part of making the iTV "easy to use" is expected to involve including gesture and voice controls in the platform. The latter is something that's already somewhat available on the iPhone in the form of Siri, a voice-controlled personal assistant app. The former is hinted at in the recent filing of an Apple patent that uses "real-time video process control using gestures", a technology similar to the one used in Microsoft's Xbox 360 Kinect peripheral.

Not everyone believes that a television like this would be a must-have upgrade from current sets, though. Benedict Evans, a technology researcher at industry analyst firm Enders Analysis, observed that knowing that their movements could control the TV, users might end up unable to move when an important part of their show was on, in case they accidentally changed channel.