Rumor: Apple Wants to Take Cable TV to the Cloud

Apple’s desire to move more concretely into the television arena has long been teased and whispered. Yesterday, even more rumors surfaced, claiming that the Cupertino company is talking to cable providers about developing a new type of set-top “cable-plus” box. Today, the Wall Street Journal outlined Apple’s alleged plans even further with a detailed description of the proposed capabilities for the Apple cable box.

The paper claims that the box is designed to “erase the distinction between live and on-demand content,” starting with a cloud-based DVR-type feature that stores full television episodes as they air and allows cable subscribers to watch any show from the current season on-demand. Separate streaming content deals could bring past seasons of shows to the Apple box. Theoretically, the Apple set-top box could bring you all the past and current episodes of your favorite show from a single, convenient interface.

Speaking of, the WSJ says that the set-top box’s interface could look identical to the icons used by Apple’s iOS devices. The company also allegedly wants to integrate social media into the mix and allow users to stream media from the set-top box to their iOS devices, sort of like a reverse AirPlay.

All in all, it sounds remarkably similar to what Steve Jobs told biographer Walter Isaacson he wanted to do with an Apple television:

“‘I’d like to create an integrated television set that is completely easy to use,’ he told me. ‘It would be seamlessly synced with all of your devices and with iCloud.’ No longer would users have to fiddle with complex remotes for DVD players and cable channels. ‘It will have the simplest user interface you could imagine. I finally cracked it.’”

Of course, things aren’t quite that easy. Even if the rumor turns out to be true, the cable industry and content providers are said to be hesitant to agree to such a drastic change to the status quo — or to give Apple a foothold in the cable market at all. The specter of iTunes’ musical dominance looms large and the WSJ’s sources say Apple has yet to sign a deal with even a single cable operator.

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