Just a day after reporting that Apple was in talks with cable operators over a set-top box, The Wall Street Journal came up with another report Thursday, saying that the rumored device might feature an iPad-like interface and superior cloud-based DVR-like capabilities, blurring the line between live and on-demand content.
According to the WSJ report, the Cupertino tech giant wants to remove the currently seen interface on cable boxes by using iOS icons. The company also wants to add other new features like streaming DVR capabilities, allowing users to watch any show at any time.
However, viewers won't actually be recording the shows. The set-top box itself would store shows in the cloud while they are being broadcast live. In addition, since the device is also rumored to have access to the current and earlier seasons of a show, users are also expected to have access to any episode of a show on-demand.
"The Cupertino, Calif.-based company proposes giving viewers the ability to start any show at any time through a digital-video recorder that would store TV shows on the Internet," The Wall Street Journal reported. "Viewers even could start a show minutes after it has begun. Time Warner Cable Inc. offers a limited version of this feature called Start Over."
The report stated that the interface would be a much simplified one with icons similar to that of an iPad. It will have the ability to connect to social networking on-screen and would support existing Apple technologies such as AirPlay.
"Some of the features Apple has discussed are improvements, but not radical changes, to those already available. For instance, Apple wants viewers to be able to access all episodes of current seasons of TV shows, whereas existing video on demand services from cable operators generally often offer only a few episodes of a current season. Apple's proposed device would also provide access to older seasons of shows, which are already available through Apple's iTunes media store," said the report.
As The Verge noted, the concept of the set-top box in question does recall the smart TV vision, which late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs once described to his biographer Walter Isaacson:
"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."
AppleInsider reported that even if Apple is close to making any deal with cable operators, persuading them could be "an uphill battle" for the company as they "have traditionally been cool to the idea of a tech company entering their market."
According to the report, another hurdle for Apple could be the entertainment companies, who own a large portion of the content that is broadcast on cable networks, thereby making it hard for Apple to reach agreements with cable operators.
The report also cited some sources who said that the cloud-based DVR model could compel content owners to expand cable companies' rights over content if the Apple set-top box gets released.
During the three-month period ending in June, 1.3 million units of Apple's self-proclaimed Apple TV "hobby" were sold, up 170 percent year-to-year. The company announced during its third fiscal quarter conference call in July that the Apple TV had an installed base of 6.8 million units, lifted by 2012 fiscal year sales of 4 million units.
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