Apple may use the new Cell processor, according to Merrill Lynch.

Analysts from the firm this morning raised their 12-month estimates on Apple to $102 per share (from $85). They did so because the analysts think Apple may announce a partnership with Sony, and may begin shipping products based on the Sony, IBM, Toshiba-developed Cell processor.

CBS MarketWatch reports Merrill's prediction that such a partnership could be an iTunes-type movie store, a high-performance Apple/Sony video editing workstation or even a network ready TV.

If it happened, such a move would "put Apple at the heart of the HD and digital consumer revolution", the analysts said.

Rumours of a strengthened relationship with Sony have been rife since the surprise appearance of that company's president Kunitake Ando with Apple CEO Steve Jobs during the latter's Macworld San Francisco keynote speech.

Ostensibly there to help stress Jobs' keynote focus on High Definition video, Ando raised laughter when he noted that Jobs likes Sony products, but not all Sony products in a reference to iTunes and Sony Connect.

Apple CEO Steve Jobs is understood to have proposed an alliance with Sony regarding iTunes - an alliance Sony then spurned.

Apple's Jobs has always expressed respect for Sony as a company.