Apple in talks to use Apple TV as cable box, report says

Apple is reportedly trying to make further inroads into the living room by asking cable companies to let consumers use the Apple TV set-top box to watch live television.

In a report from the Wall Street Journal, unnamed sources said that the Cupertino, Calif.-based company is talking to cable operators to expand the features of its most famous “hobby” product. But uneasiness with letting Apple get a foothold in the television business could be slowing down talks, the report said, as cable operators debate a deal like the one Apple has with wireless carriers for the iPhone.

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There has been a lot of speculation that Apple is going to enter the television hardware business. But expanding the content on its existing set-top box would be a far easier way to get the company’s operating software onto television screens around the world.

The company has long-characterized the Apple TV as a “hobby,” though in recent remarks Apple chief executive Tim Cook has said that the television is an “area of intense interest.” In remarks at the All Things Digital conference, Cook said he doesn’t believe Apple has to buy or become a content provider to play in the space. But he did say that Apple has to make sure it has a good amount of control over whatever it chooses to do in television.

Building out its network of services would be a smart move for Apple, particularly as it looks to find its next big innovation. Right now, Apple is sitting happily on or near the top of the smartphone and tablet markets, expanding overseas and constantly working on ways to improve the efficiency of its production. But to keep its unique reputation as an innovator, Apple has to continue offering products that impress but still seem relevant to its customers’ everyday lives.

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