It's possible the Apple TV is the new face of Comcast cable boxes, according to the Wall Street Journal. Apple has been working on this for some time; reportedly discussions with Time Warner Cable were happening as early as mid-2012, but those talks stopped when the merger/takeover/purchase talks started between TWC and Comcast. Now it seems Apple is restarting those discussions with Comcast, warming up the press for another round of "Apple + Television = Crazy Delicious."
Apple TV could be Comcast's new set top box
Comcast has done a similar hardware deal with TiVo, where TiVo Premiere boxes are an alternative to the standard cable box when getting Comcast service, and a form of the software deal for On Demand content through an Xbox Live app.
There are two important facets of this deal that are probably going to be the toughest to work out: Customer data, and the "last mile" traffic. Apple reportedly wants streaming television bandwidth treated like telephone and alarm system bandwidth (unaffected by lots of web traffic).
Another sticking point is customer information: Who will get it, and how? As Apple has demonstrated previously with magazine subscriptions, they aren't really interested in sharing customer data, but they are very interested in getting their piece of a transaction from an Apple device.
There's still plenty to work out here; content and cost not the least among them. However, since the Wall Street Journal is reporting this, hopefully things are far enough along that something interesting actually could happen.