A report tonight from the Wall Street Journal has Apple pitching a new set-top box to cable operators for live television. This of course would be something entirely different than the current Apple TV, which serves more as a go between for Internet content using services like Netflix, HULU, Flixter and the iTunes Store.
The report says that Apple has yet to reach a deal with any of the cable providers. This story comes on the heels of Apple being granted a patent for cable on Apple TV, which was filed in 2006.
Ever since Steve Jobs’ biography in which he states he had “cracked the code”, there has been plenty of conjecture about the meaning behind his words. There has been speculation of a full Apple Television product, which would be a tough sell, considering the budgetary concerns of most households. Not everyone has $2k to drop on a new television. Conversely, the smaller and current Apple TV wouldn’t be capable of being the breakthrough product the company would need in order to storm the living room. If Apple were to work out deals with content providers, Apps as channels could get expensive.
The idea that Apple would reinvent the cable box sounds plausible, but wouldn’t necessarily need the cable operators. Apple’s set-top box could be sold similar to TiVo. Customers pay for the box and then order a cable card from their carrier. Given the popularity and marketing muscle of Apple, they’d have a much better shot at getting them sold. TiVo has struggled with adoption, however they are making inroads with cable providers, inking a deal with Comcast.
Apple would also have the advantage of building in some of the features in the current Apple TV and work this new set-top box into the iOS ecosystem. Imagine recording a show, having it sync to iCloud and then watching from any of your portable iOS devices? Sign me up.