Well, that's really how all of us feel; we're just too polite to say so.
Minus the few things in there that would be truly illegal/anticompetitive, of course.
Which means that they've signed the content deals and are now just waiting for the hardware to be baked. Great way to mislead the competition.
One other aspect to all of this is the FCC proposing replacing CableCard with a thing called AllVid. AllVid would be for all Pay-TV and could conceivably use an ATV on the actual TV interface to interact with the content, with the TV being a "dumb screen".
For more on AllVid: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AllVid
This all makes sense and underlies the issues with dealing with rumors; I'm pretty sure that reports of apple talking with content providers and cable companies were accurate, but when you get this information whilst negotiations are in progress the whole thing become conjecture and somewhat pointless. Love this site but sometimes it doesn't make sense to print everything that Apple does.
I have said all along, that if Apple was going to make a TV, and make it revolutionary and simple to use, they need to be a content provider. That means either striking deals with networks and studios. If that fails, then Apple would need to by a distributor that has the deals in place. I have mentioned Dish Network as an ideal company to purchase.
The whole idea of a Apple TV being revolutionary is that it would eliminate the Cable/Sat box receiver. The clutter, the remotes, the universal remote, the interface all the crap needs to be eliminated in order for a Apple TV to shine. Apple can't accomplish any of it if they can't distribute the content themselves.
I think the rumors are contingent upon Apple locking up any distribution chain. If they can't control the experience from start to finish they won't make a TV. If they could not control the experience by telling AT&T to leave their crap off, we wouldn't have an iPhone, and it htink the same goes for a Apple TV.