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Apple seeks cable connection for set-top box

Building an audience for its own-brand telly?

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Apple is in talks with US cable TV companies about licensing the technology it would need to feed their services in through the back of its Apple TV set-top box.

The claim that the Mac maker is eyeing the US cable market comes from the Wall Street Journal. The paper suggests an Apple TV with a suitable cable connector and on-board decoding equipment. Viewers could then select the service using an app in the standard Apple TV UI.

Apple would presumably sell the box on the open market, just as it does now. The cable TV compatibility would allow subscribers to ditch their existing cable box, much as some folk by their own broadband modems to use in place of ISP-supplied equipment. The advantage: one box rather than two.

It's not hard to see Apple incorporating digital TV tuners into the Apple TV for territories, such as the UK, and perhaps satellite broadcasting feeds too.

Such a move might appear to run contrary to past Apple strategy which has thus far attempted to promote iTunes-fed content in place of material sourced from broadcast TV or cable. Even Apple appears to having a job convincing programme makers they should sell it early broadcast rights to new shows, rather than the customary streaming rights made available on DVD release.

Building such feeds into the Apple TV would allow Apple to pitch its set-top box as a multi-source universal TV hub, making it immediately more attractive to a greater number of viewers and without the considerable extra cost involved in Apple becoming a broadcaster in its own right.

Meanwhile, Apple has received numerous patents for DVR user interface design of late, and this would be an obvious place to incorporate them.

Get lots more Apple TVs out there, in front of a broader audience, and the obvious upgrade, an LCD TV that has a built-in Apple TV, will be a much easier sell. And there are far more potential riches to be had selling TVs than there are offering set-top boxes. ®

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