Apple set-top-box rumored to provide DVR-like TV on demand, iPad-like interface, social networking

Apple set-top-box rumored to provide DVR-like TV on demand, iPad-like interface, social networking

Yet more rumors are surfacing about Apple's plans for a set-top box that would provide access not only to traditional iTunes content, but traditional TV content as well. Interestingly, for the second day in a row, the report comes by way of the Wall Street Journal's Jessica E. Vascellaro and Sam Schechner:

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. Viewers even could start a show minutes after it has begun. Time Warner Cable Inc. TWC -0.25% offers a limited version of this feature called Start Over.

In addition to the cable operators the WSJ mentioned yesterday, they now say Apple is also approaching entertainment companies directly, with outlines of the rumored device's rumored capabilities. These are reportedly a simplified, iconic interface akin to that on the iPad (or, um, Apple TV?), the ability to engage in social networking on-screen, and, of course, support for existing Apple technologies like 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.

The WSJ points out, again, that this is a departure from Apple's previous strategy, which amounted to an end run around cable companies, similar to the end-run around record stores Apple pulled off with iTunes music. In both cases entrenched brokers controlled the supply of content, but while record stores were brick and mortar businesses, cable operators literally own the pipes that bring content to our doorsteps and into our living rooms. They also have agreements in place that aren't so easily worked around...

Again, however, two reports in the WSJ on two consecutive days is interesting. Or positioning. Why now, when there's already a plethora of Apple product rumors concerning the iPhone 5, iPad mini and the rest of the iOS device line up ahead of the rumored September 12? Why the repeated references to changed strategies and cable-engagement? Why....? /Plinkket

Given Apple keeps the, by their standards low-selling, Apple TV "hobby" on the market is evidence of how serious Apple is about the living room. These rumors are likely indicators of how serious they continue to be. We'll still have to wait and see what, if anything, actually emerged by way of an Apple DVR.

But as I've said numerous times, my cable company's terrible Scientific Atlanta box hasn't been updated in a decade. It's in desperate need of innovation -- of revolution -- and if Apple can do it, I'll throw money at them in a heartbeat.

How about you?

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Rene Ritchie

EiC of iMore, EP of Mobile Nations, Apple analyst, co-host of Debug, Iterate, Vector, Review, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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Reader comments

Apple set-top-box rumored to provide DVR-like TV on demand, iPad-like interface, social networking


My oh my, just when Apple stock lost all its momentum in anticipation to the September launch, still a month away, financial newspapers start throwing wild rumors around. Strange, isn't it?

See? I figured the DVR was long overdue for end-of-lifing. I've been predicting some kind of all-streaming Apple TV for years.

As with several other things, Apple has timed this press in response to other things happening in the industry.

It all sounds interesting but I'm not holding my breath for a September release but if it happens and is priced right...I'm down.

While this would be a great thing in theory, the cable companies are not about to let Apple into their coveted market which they control very tightly. Everyone knows how the music industry is regretting their decision (although consumers have benefited).

There are a few issues, first you have cable providers setting bandwidth caps in certain markets and its pretty obvious this will only get worse. So your DVR is now cloud based and your data cap has been hit hard this month so now your bill is another $50-100 higher so you can stream your DVR. No thanks.

Next why wouldn't the cable companies just do this for you now, they could easily provide a cloud based DVR for you and save on local device storage and HDD failure.

Also what happens when your ISP is down you can't get any of your DVR content because its cloud based. Perhaps what Apple should due is provide an Apple TV with a server grade HDD (not the lame HDD in the TimeCapsule) so you can have local storage or cloud based if you want.

Finally, what about those who do not have highspeed internet in their market, yes there are those outside of the mid-west who have this issue. I happen to live 20 miles from a major city in my market but I have to use Satellite TV and there is no high speed ISP in my area. I have a choice, Satellite Internet, dial up or Wireless Internet via MiFi. My Dish Network DVR works very well for me even if the signal goes out I have hours and hours of content to watch.

Still its a nice direction for Apple, but I don't see Comcast, Time Warner, Cablevision, etc. ever ceding ground.

I have 2 DirecTV DVRs, one of which is on its last legs. I was considering switching providers, but with this potentially on the way I may wait to see what comes about.