Speculation has been rife that Apple intends to take on the living room with its "iTV" product, in the same way that the firm has revolutionised the mobile device industries with the iPhone, iPod and iPad.
Peter Misek, an analyst at the American bank Jefferies, claims that Sharp has been ordered to start production on the next-generation TV sets in early 2012 towards a commercial launch in the second half of the year.
"Other TV manufacturers have begun a scrambling search to identify what iTV will be and do," Misek said.
"They hope to avoid the fate of other industries and manufacturers who were caught flat-footed by Apple."
The Tokyo Times newspaper has claimed that production of iTV sets is expected to start in February at a JVC factory in central Japan.
Last month, it was reported that Apple had created a prototype of an internet-connected television product that can stream content from the cloud and use voice-control via Siri, the system incorporated into Apple's new iPhone 4S.
It is expected that Apple's iTV would feature much of the functionality of Apple TV, the device that can stream content such as YouTube videos and high definition movies to TV screens.
Senior engineer Jeff Robbin, the man who built the Apple's iTunes service and helped to create the iPod, is understood to be overseeing the iTV project.
Speculation that Apple plans to enter the TV screen market reached new heights after Steve Job's official biographer Walter Isaacson revealed that the Apple co-founder said before his death on October 5 that he had "finally cracked" how to build an integrated TV device.
Jobs told his biographer: "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."
There is plenty more evidence to suggest that Apple is working on a TV project, including a filing at the US patent office in October for a "real time video process control using gestures".
The application included using infrared, motion and other sensors to track and read the user's movements, similarly to Microsoft's Xbox Kinect system.
It also included an outline of functionality for transferring content from a smaller screen, such as mobile phone or tablet computer, to a bigger one.
Apple has so far taken only a tentative approach to TV, with the Apple TV product - often described by Jobs as "just a hobby" - selling only around 2m units since March 2010, compared to 40m iPads shifted.
Misek claims that iTV will feature a liquid crystal display (LCD) screen, and have an initial production run of 5m to 10m units, presumably to test worldwide appetite for the product.
However, it is unclear whether the connected TV would face a legal challenge in the UK from commercial broadcaster ITV over the use of its proposed brand name.
Meanwhile, Apple is understood to have taken over an entire Sharp factory to produce its next-generation products, including a bigger iPhone and thicker iPad scheduled for launch next year.