How the Long-Rumored Apple Television Set Might Work

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Verizon, you’ll recall, will soon let you use an Xbox 360 as your cable box—which means you’ll have regular TV programming, plus a host of streaming services. It’s similar to Google TV, except the cable companies can control it—you still have to subscribe to a cable package for it to work.

While Verizon’s early foray into the “TV anywhere” idea will be with the Xbox 360, during a presentation I recently attended, the company’s senior VP of product development Shadman Zafar remarked that Verizon is “actively” working to extend the same type of linear TV programming “to many, many, many consumer electronic devices.” AT&T U-Verse subscribers can already watch live TV on an Xbox 360, Time Warner has a live TV iPad app, and Comcast is reportedly working on a TV anywhere service called AnyPlay.

Apple TV

It would be in Apple’s best interests to create a TV set compatible with as many of the aforementioned TV anywhere services as possible. It would pave the way for a simple interface since it’d be a first-input device, and we’d have access to linear television programming, along with content from iTunes, Netflix, and whichever other services Apple wanted to throw in.

Also, it could be just the thing to further accelerate TV anywhere adoption. The new crop of live TV offerings we’re either already seeing or that are currently in development? Many of them are built for the iPad. If Apple builds a TV and consumers flock to it, content providers and cable operators are going to want to be able to get themselves in front of all those eyeballs, too.

The worst thing Apple could do would be to assume it can offer a TV set capable of turning massive numbers of TV watchers into cord cutters. The system’s just not set up that way right now—too much power still rests in the hands of the content providers and cable operators. Offering an Apple TV set that simply has the current version of Apple TV built into it just won’t cut it. And offering a Google TV-like layer that sits between a cable box and the screen would be too complicated for regular, tech-fearing consumers.

The only other option would be if Apple could somehow convince all the major content providers to completely bypass the cable operators to offer true, linear (read: live) a la carte programming delivered over your internet connection. Apple has indeed disrupted industries before (see: iTunes and its effect on the music industry) and something like this would more or less overturn the entire TV industry—but it’d be one hell of a feat.

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