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Apple to bring YouView approach to Apple TV

Set to unify broadcast, catch-up and streaming services?

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The Wall Street Journal continues to fly a kite - to use an old journalistic expression - for the Apple TV, following up a story on the set-top box's possible integration of cable and digital TV decoders with a second piece, this time suggesting Apple will turn the product into a kind of YouView for the US.

Citing "people briefed on Apple's plans", the WSJ considers how the set-top's user interface will evolve to more closely resemble "the navigation icons on Apple's iPad" and to present "space on the TV screen for social media features, such as sharing TV shows through services like Twitter".

Have these sources really been briefed by Apple - or have they simply read the same Apple patent granted over the past few years that we all have - and drawn the same logical conclusions from them?

And there's no shortage of prior art from manufacturers of set-top boxes and TVs who have already begun to implement Tweet-while-you-watch technology. Some others already allow a user 'share' what they're watching with friends, sending a links that gives the recipient a copy of a trailer or extract, or even the show itself if they subscribe to a service with a licence to stream the programme or movie. Every such example strengthens the suggestion that Apple may do the same.

Still, it's all fairly indefinite. Common words in the WSJ piece include 'likely', 'could' and 'may', all keywords speaking to a fundamental uncertainty about Apple's plans - what it might do, not what it will.

One of the few points that seem more definite, however, is the claim that Apple "proposes giving viewers the ability to start any show at any time through a DVR that would store TV shows on the internet".

So, an Apple take on the YouView concept in other words. YouView, which finally went live in the UK last month, treats past, present and future programming as items on a single timeline. Select an upcoming show and it'll be scheduled for recording. One being broadcast now will appear on the screen straight away; so will a programme that has already been shown, albeit after a brief pause while the box calls it up from the archives of one of the online catch-up services, such as BBC iPlayer.

Apple's variation is simply that the catch-up content might come from iTunes, though there's no reason why it couldn't come from broadcasters' own catch-up services too, leaving material that's fallen outside the catch-up period to be delivered by the Apple online store, or similar streaming and rental services.

As we noted yesterday, Apple's current Apple TV strategy might well seem to be to seek any and all opportunities to drive viewers to iTunes, but there's mileage in supporting lots of other content sources too: punters like choice and are more likely to favour a box that gives it to them. And yes, Apple already understands this, which is why it includes the likes of Netflix and, more recently, Hulu on the Apple TV. ®

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