With the looming iPhone 5 and smaller iPad on the way, all is quiet on the Siri-powered Apple HDTV/iTV rumor front. Two new reports indicate that the little "hobby box" aka Apple TV will stick around, but get upgraded with set-top box capabilities in the form of live TV and "other content."
According to both the Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg, Apple is currently chatting it up with cable companies to get their content onto the Apple TV. As it stands, the Apple TV is merely a conduit for downloading movies and TV shows through the iTunes store or through independent channels such as Netflix, Hulu and MLB.TV.
Here's Alex Sherman and Adam Satariano, reporting for Bloomberg:
"Consumers would be able to purchase the device instead of paying a monthly leasing fee to cable companies, said the person, who requested anonymity because the talks are private.
By partnering with cable companies, Apple would get access to myriad channels now available to subscribers, instead of having to strike independent licensing deals with media companies and program owners after shows have aired."
Imagine if you could download a pass to a specific TV show — say, Mad Men and nothing else — that would be huge. You can do this already with select shows on iTunes and Amazon, for instance, but it's more of a rarity than it should be. One of the big reasons why someone like me doesn't have cable is because of the way channels are packaged together: I don't need even a fraction of the content I'm paying for, and the price just isn't worth it.
If Apple could find a way unbundle those channels while still keeping the cable companies happy, that would be quite the game changer, and a glimpse of an à la carte cable option in the U.S. I'd happily pay a smaller fee to see the shows I actually want to watch.
As the Wall Street Journal points out, this isn't the first time that we've heard Apple negotiating with the cable companies for more content. It probably won't be the last, seeing as how the cable companies know better than to let Apple wrangle control away like Steve Jobs did with wireless carriers. (AT&T, we're looking at you!)
Apple TV might not be the biggest cash cow for Apple, but its role in the company's ecosystem is increasing every year. One need only point to AirPlay screen sharing in OS X Mountain Lion to justify Apple TV's significance. Cable channels and live TV — and maybe even DVR — would just about push the Apple's "hobby" over the top.