Apple set-top box to blur line between live, on-demand content

Posted:
in General Discussion edited January 2014
Following up on a previous report, The Wall Street Journal on Thursday revealed a bit more about Apple's rumored set-top cable box, saying the unit may include an iOS-like user interface and advanced cloud-based DVR functionality that will blur the line between live and on-demand content.

WSJ sources say Apple's vision for the device is to do away with the clunky interface seen on current cable boxes by using iOS icons, while adding a number of new features like streaming DVR capabilities which allow users to start any show at any time.

One of the major features of an Apple-made cable box could be access to the company's rich history of user-friendly UIs. Sources familiar with Apple's plans say the set-top box may use iconography similar to iOS, perhaps akin to the interface seen on the current Apple TV. The design and layout may change if and when the rumored device is released, though the UI is expected to be a vast improvement over the much maligned solutions presented by existing cable boxes.

The sources go on to say the box's DVR capabilities would be rooted in the cloud, with users able to access content stored on off-site servers. While some cable operators offer features similar to a cloud-based DVR, including Time Warner's "Start Over," a comprehensive solution that allows users to start and stop shows at will has yet to enter the market. The product which comes closest to having the proposed feature set would be TiVo, however that device stores shows on-site, not in the cloud.

It appears the set-top box will be an advanced version of the current Apple TV, which is limited to streaming content from iTunes, Hulu and other internet sources. With the introduction of live television and cloud-based DVR functionality, the rumored device could solve many gripes cable subscribers have with their existing service. Apple reportedly wants to allow viewers access to all episodes of current TV shows as well as older seasons, a feature most providers limit to a select amount of previously-aired content.

Other features Apple may be looking into are integrated social networking like sharing TV shows through Twitter, as well as AirPlay functionality which would offload content to supported iDevices.

Apple TV
Example of the current-generation Apple TV's user interface. | Source: Apple


Thursday's report comes a day after rumors surfaced that Apple was in talks with a number of cable providers over introducing a branded cable box solution. It remains unclear how far along talks are, or if Apple is even close to closing some sort of deal, however the company may face an uphill battle in persuading cable operators that have traditionally been cool to the idea of a tech company entering their market. According to inside sources, late Apple cofounder Steve Jobs was not in favor of partnering with regional cable operators because their limited reach could cause a number of operability issues.

Entertainment companies are also an issue as they own a large portion of what is broadcast on cable networks, making it difficult for Apple to reach agreements with cable operators. A particular point of contention is the cloud-based DVR concept, with sources saying the idea could force content owners to extend cable companies' rights over content if the Apple box sees release. One person familiar with the matter said Apple may negotiate directly with the entertainment companies, leveraging media already available through iTunes.

The fresh rumors follow growing sales of Apple's self-proclaimed Apple TV "hobby," which amounted to 1.3 million units during the three month period ending in June, up 170 percent year-to-year. During the company's third fiscal quarter conference call in July, it was announced that the Apple TV had an installed base of 6.8 million, boosted by 2012 fiscal year sales of 4 million units, a result that CEO Tim Cook called "pretty incredible."
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 51
    solipsismxsolipsismx Posts: 19,566member
    This certainly makes more sense to me than a full-fledged TV. However, I can't say I'm too keen on the cloud-based DVR. Even on a LAN the lag of pulling networked data can make the experience too slow to feel useful. I'm hoping that Apple will have a hybrid system to shore up some of these weak spots that affect usability... assuming this is accurate.
  • Reply 2 of 51
    herbapouherbapou Posts: 2,222member
    Considering we heard about BCE and rogers having prototypes 8 months ago I have a feeling negociations are far more advanced than they say, at least with some providers.

    I wouldnt rule out Apple making a full tv set at some point. Even with the current a5x the set would have plenty of power to drive video, apps and games for years before its worth upgrading.

    A cloud based DVR is nothing short of science fiction. The only way to make that seems like a dvr would be to record all channels on the node then feed you with the channel you want like a on demand stream. But if too many people use it its going to crash.

    Note: the node would the point where the multicast stops and the stream to youre home begins on a iptv architecture.
  • Reply 3 of 51
    buckalecbuckalec Posts: 192member


    "Sources familiar with Apple's plans say the set-top box may use iconography similar to iOS"  - I'm in shock, what a great source, pure genius.

  • Reply 4 of 51
    tallest skiltallest skil Posts: 43,399member


    NAiTL*, Apple. That's all I want and need. You make a little box I can buy that lets me plug a hard drive into my AirPort, drop files on it in the hierarchy of an iTunes Library, and access it over the network without iTunes open or a computer on at all, I'll buy three of them on launch day. You can do this now with software for both of the existing black Apple TVs, but I know you won't. And you can certainly make existing AirPort hardware support this, and I sure hope you do, because I JUST bought a new AirPort Extreme… 


     


    *Network Attached iTunes Libraries ("nate-ull" for pronouncing)


     


    Oh, but yeah, definitely do to television what you've done to phones, tablets, music, and movies. Please. We need it desperately.

  • Reply 5 of 51
    I can confirm that Rogers was not testing any Apple boxes. I can't speak for Bell.
  • Reply 6 of 51

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by SolipsismX View Post



    This certainly makes more sense to me than a full-fledged TV. However, I can't say I'm too keen on the cloud-based DVR. Even on a LAN the lag of pulling networked data can make the experience too slow to feel useful. I'm hoping that Apple will have a hybrid system to shore up some of these weak spots that affect usability... assuming this is accurate.


    Not to mention the cable companies will pull an AT&T.. blame all the network hogging on an Apple device and make an even bigger push to take home broadband to tiered pricing.

  • Reply 7 of 51
    herbapouherbapou Posts: 2,222member
    NAiTL*, Apple. That's all I want and need. You make a little box I can buy that lets me plug a hard drive into my AirPort, drop files on it in the hierarchy of an iTunes Library, and access it over the network without iTunes open or a computer on at all, I'll buy three of them on launch day. You can do this now with software for both of the existing black Apple TVs, but I know you won't. And you can certainly make existing AirPort hardware support this, and I sure hope you do, because I JUST bought a new AirPort Extreme… 

    *Network Attached iTunes Libraries ("nate-ull" for pronouncing)

    Oh, but yeah, definitely do to television what you've done to phones, tablets, music, and movies. Please. We need it desperately.

    They could do an itunes server in time capsuled. We can always hope.
  • Reply 8 of 51
    rogifanrogifan Posts: 10,669member
    Another day another Apple TV rumor. Snore.
  • Reply 9 of 51
    tallest skiltallest skil Posts: 43,399member


    Originally Posted by Synergi View Post

    Not to mention the cable companies will pull an AT&T.. blame all the network hogging on an Apple device and make an even bigger push to take home broadband to tiered pricing.


     


    … I'd like to see 'em TRY.


     


    ????


    No one touches my home Internet.

  • Reply 10 of 51

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post


     


    … I'd like to see 'em TRY.


     


    ????


    No one touches my home Internet.



    LOL, I'm with you on that one..

  • Reply 11 of 51


    Apple has been talking with these guys for years and will continue talking with them for years - cable companies do not want to let Apple become integral to delivering content to their customers and take power away from them (like the Music industry, or wireless providers etc.).


     


    At least we've moved on from all the talk of Apple making TV's.  ;-)

  • Reply 12 of 51
    charlitunacharlituna Posts: 7,215member
    Get all seasons up, get everything to the hd quality, release within the week on all sources. Drop the SD only option and put the trio on that pricing. Put season passes at a 25% discount with complete my on all titles.

    Theres your DVR in the cloud, no commercials etc. adding global avail regardless of country of origin within one month outside of said country and delayed downloading and streaming wouldn't be bad either
  • Reply 13 of 51

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Sasparilla View Post


    Apple has been talking with these guys for years and will continue talking with them for years - cable companies do not want to let Apple become integral to delivering content to their customers and take power away from them (like the Music industry, or wireless providers etc.).



    Then the cable companies will get left in the dust...  Their choice.

  • Reply 14 of 51

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Sasparilla View Post


    Apple has been talking with these guys for years and will continue talking with them for years - cable companies do not want to let Apple become integral to delivering content to their customers and take power away from them (like the Music industry, or wireless providers etc.).



    Exactly. The cable/satellite providers do not want Apple stepping in and re-imagining their industry the way they did the music industry with iTunes and the iPod. The music industry will never admit it, but the way things were going with file sharing, Apple saved the industry. It's unfortunate that it will take a massive shakeup for the television content producers to realize that Apple can do the same for them, and they can rid their industry of the middlemen: cable and satellite companies.


     


    The biggest draws I can see to a direct-from-the-producer system I can see preventing Apple from disruption in this industry is broadband speed in the US, and the channel owners not wanting to lose money with their lesser watched channels if Apple were to start offering them a la carte through the ATV. I would love to see them offering tv packages, i.e. ESPN package, HBO package, etc.for a monthly fee.

  • Reply 15 of 51
    tallest skiltallest skil Posts: 43,399member


    Originally Posted by charlituna View Post

    Get all seasons up, get everything to the hd quality, release within the week on all sources. Drop the SD only option and put the trio on that pricing. Put season passes at a 25% discount with complete my on all titles.

    Theres your DVR in the cloud, no commercials etc. adding global avail regardless of country of origin within one month outside of said country and delayed downloading and streaming wouldn't be bad either


     


    That's part of it.


     


    Apple needs to take the iTunes Store global.


     


    "…They have…"


     


    The whole store. Screw countries, screw continents. If there's an application available in the US, it's available in Ireland, Japan, India, South Africa… If there's a TV show available in the Japan, it's available in Russia, China, Egypt, Brazil, Canada… If there's an iBook available in the UK, it's available in Germany, Mexico, Switzerland, Australia, Peru… If there's a song available in France, it's available in Morocco, Uruguay, Guyana, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia… 


     


    These morons that want to lock things to a single country need to learn a thing or to about the long tail… 


     


    Apple needs to just DO it. What are content creators going to do, complain that they're making MORE money than ever before?

  • Reply 16 of 51
    kimk69kimk69 Posts: 77member
    Yeah but it will probably be an optional box and the
    Fu**ing cable companies will charge some more
    By the month money. As if $160.00 isn't enough for
    Internet and HD with no premium channels.
  • Reply 17 of 51
    drblankdrblank Posts: 3,383member


    H.265 spec is being finalized for better quality video.  I'm sure that will be part of it.  Apple can easily plop in some SSD memory to download/upload in the background.  Whether the product is a set top box, an actual Apple brand TV, or OEM the motherboard to other TV mfg.  Apple can go in many different directions with this product.


     


    It's something new and we'll see what comes of it.   But, knowing Apple, they'll probably do some cool stuff that's not been done before.  And it should be easy to use.

  • Reply 18 of 51
    chadmatic wrote: »
    Then the cable companies will get left in the dust...  Their choice.
    How do the cable companies get left in the dust if you still need (at least for a lot of us) their cable modem? Wouldn't their business model switch from selling content to selling the conduit?
  • Reply 19 of 51


    This could be really good and change the way we view TV. If anyone can pull this off APPLE is definitely the company to execute this new experience.

  • Reply 20 of 51

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by scalpernt View Post


    My prediction:  There will not be a TV, instead there will be a TV interface device that is a hybrid of the iPad and AppleTV, that will be specialized to connect to a variety of TV's via airplay.  It will feature Siri, and Apple will launch the device with several partners who will manufacture TV's that will connect to the device out of the box wirelessly.  You'll use it to control the TV, and play content on the TV, but it won't actually be used to play content on the device itself.  Then we'll all just use our iPad/AppleTV hybrid devices (iPlay?) to control our entire entertainment experience using our voices from the convenience of a couch from across the room.  It will replace all remote controls, set top boxes, etc and the pitch will be that your TV no longer needs any of the other boxes connected to it.  The iPlay will play games, channel surf, play all sorts of content from iTunes/Netflix/etc., play slide shows from iPhoto, and can even pull up your calendar and email if you want it to.


     


    Makes sense on a number of levels:


     


    1. Market for people who already have flatscreens>People who are itching to replace their flatscreens


    2. Lower price point = bigger market potential


    3. Small device can easily integrate into Apple Stores


    4. Solves the "Remote Control" problem - there is definitely a market for people who want a better way of controlling all their entertainment devices.  This thing would be the solution, and that would be it's primary selling proposition.


     


    I imagine it will also require Apple to move the football forward on it's negotiations with Studios re: Video content.  But if that happens, I think this is where all the arrows seem to be pointing.


     


    Mark my words: Apple is not getting into the TV business.


     



     


     


     


    http://forums.appleinsider.com/t/150466/brightcove-ceo-expects-apple-tv-add-on-for-facetime-motion-control#post_2120816


     


    I called it!  Or at least I called it if it comes true. 

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