There’s fresh evidence that Apple is set to release a TV set after sources in Asia claimed that the US company is working with manufacturers Sharp and Hon Hai to test designs for a large-screen high-resolution TV.

The Wall Street Journal reports that, according to unnamed persons with Taiwan’s Hon Hai (also known as Foxconn), the project is in its early stages:

“It isn’t a formal project yet. It is still in the early stage of testing,” said one of the people.

Apple is known for testing numerous new product designs on a regular basis but the sources tell the WSJ that the US firm has been running testing of various TV designs “for a number of years”, suggesting that the plan is a long term one that will indeed bear fruit soon.

The reports are significant since it would suggest that the newspaper has been provided the information by one of the parties involved. While the leak has come from Hon Hai in Asia, it is not inconceivable that either of the other two had input.

Before we get carried away with this smoking gun, the WSJ points out that “Apple could opt not to proceed with the device”, since the real issue is around striking content deals.

Aside from finalizing a design, any potential Apple ‘iTV’ would require the company to strike content deals with broadcasters, in order to provide more than just Web content. The company was said to be in talks with cable companies in March, but sources told the New York Post that its controlling attitude – “we decide the price, we decide what content” — had not sat well with the entertainment firms,  which it needs the support of.

A source told the Post that “they [Apple] want to create the interface, and they wanted to work with the cable guys to manage bandwidth across the TV and broadband pipeline.”

Despite content provider reluctance, a streaming service was mooted for launch this Christmas (2012).

A month before the Post’s report, Apple was said to be working with Rogers over its refreshed TV set. The Canadian firm had been sounded out as a potential content contributor, though the WSJ doesn’t mention it specifically in its article.

Apple’s TV rumors are a much speculated story and, one year ago sources in Asia claimed that company was “preparing materials” to begin the manufacturing new televisions sets in the first-quarter of 2012.

Apple has not publicly commented on the potential of the product, a much speculated upgrade of its existing Web TV set. Speaking in an interview with NBC News last week, CEO Tim Cook called the space “an area of interest.”

“I can’t say more than that,” Cook told interviewer Brian Williams on NBC’s Rock Center stream.

Partner-wise, the WSJ’s selection of Sharp and Hon Hai takes sense. The two have moved closer together this year, and the Taiwanese firm co-invested in one of Sharp’s LCD factories in Japan which Hon Hai is using to produce 60-inch TVs for Vizio. In addition, Hon Hai remains engaged in talks to purchase 9.9 percent of its troubled ally, although no deal has been finalized yet.

Headline image via Kevork Djansezian / Getty Images