Apple fans waiting patiently for a television have had their dreams dashed, after sources familiar with the company's plans said development was cancelled more than a year ago.

Long held as Apple's 'Next Big Thing', many thought the television would arrive before the Watch. Their hopes were ignited when Steve Jobs was quoted in his 2011 biography as saying he'd "cracked" what was needed to transform television.

But, after almost a decade of research, those plans have been laid to rest. Sources familiar with the matter told the Wall Street Journal that plans to introduce a 4K, Ultra HD television were scrapped more than a year ago. Instead, Apple is now working on an online TV service and a design of the Apple TV set-top box.

The new service and box could be seen as soon as 8 June, when Apple's annual Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) kicks off in San Francisco. Alongside those, we also expect to see major updates to iOS and Apple's Mac computer software. Apple is claimed to be creating a thinner Apple TV with a new, touch screen remote control; the Apple Watch will also receive a software update to control it.

Apple's decision is claimed to be because it couldn't find a compelling reason to differentiate the product from other televisions on the market.

The iPhone maker had reportedly experimented with a FaceTime video chat feature would could direct cameras to whoever was speaking. As far back as the mid-2000s the company also looked into laser-powered transparent displays, before deciding they would be too expensive and not of high enough quality.

Where Apple has excelled by producing phones, tablets and watches with market-leading software inside attractive hardware, televisions by their nature have a much smaller reliance on groundbreaking software, especially when a huge number of set-top boxes and games consoles do a better job than the clunky Smart TV software produced by Samsung, Sony and LG.