Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) has hired a veteran cable television industry executive, suggesting that maybe the company really is planning to make a foray into the smart TV space. Of course the timing of this hiring may suggest that the so-called iTV won’t be arriving as soon as some have been hoping.

Apple iTV

Apple hires CableLabs exec

Vlad Savov of The Verge reports that Apple has hired Jean-Francois Mule to work as one of its engineering directors. Mule was previously the Senior Vice president of Technology Development at CableLabs where he also founded and staffed the office located in the Bay area. According to The Verge, Savov’s expertise lies in IP voice and video, television apps and problem solving.

He joined Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) in September and describes himself as “part of something big.” The Verge speculates that since his background is more in software engineering, he will simply be redesigning the set top Apple TV box, which is due for a refresh soon.

Will Apple build the iTV?

However, analysts have been clamoring for a smart television from Apple for quite some time, and if the company were to build new hardware like a television set, then it would certainly need software and TV apps on it. So Savov’s hiring could indeed be for the iTV if past rumors are true. The timing of his hiring might make sense as well since we last heard in July rumors that Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) was testing 55-inch and 65-inch ultra-HD television panels from LG. Software would be a natural part of the package, especially at this point if the hardware testing phase is going along nicely.

Cantor Fitzgerald analyst Brian White continues to believe Apple will enter into a new product category over the next 12 to 18 months. If he’s right, it’s anybody’s guess what that product might be, although a smart television set and a smart watch are the leading candidates.

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