Blog Post

Apple’s set-top-box plans include cloud DVR

Apple’s (s AAPL) plans to turn its Apple TV into a cable set-top box involve a cloud DVR feature that would allow viewers to tune into shows any time they want, according to a report by The Wall Street Journal. Other demands made by Apple apparently include extended windows for VOD content.

The Journal didn’t share many details about planned features for the cloud DVR offering, which makes it hard to judge what exactly Apple may have in mind. The paper said that including such a feature would force Apple to negotiate further rights with broadcasters in addition to its ongoing negotiations with cable operators.

However, there are two competing models for a cloud-based content offering that Apple could take cues from:

  • Cablevision(s CVC) offers its subscribers a network DVR, which offers TiVo-like(s TIVO) capabilities in the cloud. The service allows customers time-shifting, which includes jumping back to the beginning of a show. However, there are limits: Cablevision’s DVR Plus offering comes with four tuners, so subscribers aren’t able to “start any show at any time,” as the Wall Street Journal suggested. On the upside, Cablevision’s DVR offering has been deemed legal by the Supreme Court and doesn’t require additional licenses.
  • Time Warner Cable on the other hand theoretically offers viewers the ability to jump back to the start of any program they tune in with its Start Over feature, but the offering is limited to channels that the operator has agreements with. These vary by market. Customers in Los Angeles, for example, can “start over” on programs from ABC, (s DIS) CBS (s CBS) and NBC, (s CMCSK) but not FOX. (s NWS) And the need for negotiations with individual affiliates meant that it took Time Warner Cable years to roll out the service in all of its markets.

If Apple were to launch a cloud DVR, it would have to pick its poison: Either launch a true cloud-based DVR service that would have limited access to programming, or begin long and painful negotiations with local affiliates. Either way, it would likely end up with something that may sound revolutionary on paper, but would in practice look an awful lot like existing pay TV services.

19 Responses to “Apple’s set-top-box plans include cloud DVR”

  1. Tech Marketer

    Interesting information. Well, there is no doubt that hosted virtual desktops are Hot. And the days of IT professionals marching from computer to computer performing the same tasks on multiple PCs are thankfully over. With hosted virtual desktop, after a major upgrade is integrated, there is no need to perform any tasks at an employee level—in-house or remote. Their machines are effectively the same, all of which are accessing data and applications through the cloud service provider without storing anything locally.

  2. Nissan Thomas, Esq

    Why doesn’t apple just create a set top box that allows content providers to place apps on the apple tv service, whereby users can watch any programming, at any time. This will allow the content companies to employ any windowing strategies that want. Unbundle the content should be the goal here! Since most major broadcast, and cable networks have apps already created for iOs and Android, to me this seems like a no brainer. Apple will just pay a license fee for the app to be placed on their service, then Apple will take 30% from each subscriber of the app. So HBO could still charge 15.99 per month, Viacom could charge $30 bucks a month for their suite of channels and programming, and all of it available to consumers at anytime, they want. Add some DVR/cloud based storage, to allow remote/mobile access with your phone, and now cable is unbundled. Simple if you ask me!

  3. Apple excelled in hardware. They have never done as well in the software arena. Note that most Mac users use products developed for Windows but not the other way around. They need to focus a slick, sexy and fast DVR/streaming media appliance and allow the user community to plug in upcoming services. Roku is taking off not because the device is so wonderful, or the company has a fan base. It is because users can create their own streams of content and share those streams with the community.

  4. Art Roche

    Apple will buy a smaller cable provider (Adelphia, Charter) to start, and expand from there. They will employ a superior user experience to eventually covert us all, like they always do.

  5. Why doesn’t Apple just buy TiVo, leverage their patents for DVR against the cable companies and their small but solid global footprint and go straight to consumers everywhere?

  6. Also time for Congress [I know – I probably should stop right there] to reverse out-of-date regulations the FCC is required to enforce about about cable/sat carriers and so-called local TV access.

    There is virtually no local TV excepting public television stations and local news. Most “local” TV stations are owned by national corporations and carry nothing but warmed over telenovelas and infomercials.

    Time to move on and devise new, useful and interesting opportunities. All the qualities that have nothing to do with corporate entertainment/information offerings – or Congress.

  7. For Apple to do *anything* with their own set-top box, they must first work it out with the broadcasters and the cable companies, who have total control over all content – even content produced by Netflix, Hulu, YouTube or anyone else. There are only two ways to deliver content to the public: OTA or cable. Between them, the broadcasters and the cable companies control both.

  8. Tech Marketer

    Once again a great product from Apple. Not surprising that this product and concept is powered by cloud technology. Well, I am a geek, and I simply love this cloud technology, It just helps me break from my IT Hassles, its reliable, and its secure. Moreover, its helping organizations to save up to 40% (OPEX and CAPEX) by eliminating the cost of owning traditional PC/Server environments. Also, helps in Increasing energy efficiency by 80% through hosted virtual servers and hosted virtual desktops. Addition to this. cloud computing also eliminates the cost of purchasing, supporting, and upgrading equipment and software. Isn’t this so flexible that you pay only for the benefits and applications you need in a low, monthly rate – nothing more.

    Doubtlessly, Cloud is here to Stay!

    • oscargoldman

      Nice spam, douchebag.

      Storing media in “the cloud” is idiotic for consumers and a profitable scam for those who prey on them. Local storage (like hard drives) is dirt-cheap, spacious, physically small, usable without an Internet connection, and doesn’t consume your data allowance. You can put it on portable devices and watch it on the plane, a road trip, or your way to work on the subway.

      Anything you store in “the cloud” can be revoked at the whim of a third party.

      Peddlers of “cloud” scams rely on the ignorance of consumers and those consumers’ failure to think things through. Don’t be one of those consumers. Think it through.

      • Tearfang

        Local + cloud is great.
        I agree that only cloud storage is a poor idea, bc it is unavaliable off-line, more expensive to access in terms of power and bandwitch. Bt local storage only is also a poor idea bc it is only avaliable on one device and running a reliable backup system is too much work for most ppl.