Apple fans hoping for a television revolution from the iOS maker may be disappointed if a new report about the company's upcoming television plans are correct. A day after claims that Apple has put the oft-rumored Apple television set on hold in favor of a new set-top box, a new report sheds a few details about how the supposed new set-top box might work.
Apple is designing the new set-top box to simplify how you access and view programming and erase the distinction between live and recorded content, according to The Wall Street Journal. These claims echo reports from late 2009 that said Apple was working on a $30 per month TV subscription service you would access via iTunes.
The iOS Box
The biggest vision for Apple's supposed new set-top box, which may or may not be an Apple TV refresh, would be a DVR feature that saves shows to an online storage service, presumably iCloud. You could then access your saved shows across all your devices, including the iPhone, iPad, and MacBook. Steve Jobs imagined a similar feature for a future Apple television set, according to Walter Isaacson's biography of the late Apple founder.
In this configuration, the new box would also have a Start Over feature that lets you restart from the beginning shows that are already in progress. Time Warner Cable already offers such a service, as do other cable providers around the world. The rumored new Apple box would also have an iOS-style menu featuring large, easily identifiable icons, social media features to let you share links to television shows, and easy access to all episodes of current seasons of popular TV series.
What's the Plus?
If it becomes a reality, the new Apple set-top box sounds like an interesting service; but--assuming the reports are accurate--the device will be more evolutionary than a revolutionary change. Anyone who owns a Slingbox can already access recorded television across mobile devices and PCs. Getting access to the latest episodes of current TV shows is only a few clicks away on Amazon, Hulu, or iTunes--excluding content from networks such as HBO and Showtime, of course. And anything you can't find through regular channels you can get for free, albeit illegitimately, through a simple Google search, at least for now.
So what would be the attraction of a new Apple set-top box? If I had to guess, it would be price. The cheapest Slingbox runs about $130 to $180, while a TiVo DVR will set you back at least $150, and even your cable provider's DVR probably costs you about $120 per year. If Apple can beat those prices, it just might have a hit on its hands.
The company already offers a $99 Apple TV set-top box that lets you purchase television shows and movies on iTunes, stream content through your Netflix or Hulu Plus subscription, and access content from devices on your home network. If Apple packed its purported new DVR-style features into Apple TV and could keep the price around $100, the device would likely be a hit.
What's not clear, however, is whether a monthly subscription would be required to use the supposed new features. Apple is talking to cable providers and content producers about the new device, the Journal says, and they won't like the idea of people storing TV shows in the cloud and making them accessible anywhere for free.