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?