Report: Apple’s TV Plans Real, But Still Early

Apple TV?Apple’s plans to disrupt the TV business is real, according to a report from The Wall Street Journal (subscription required), but in contrast to other recent reports, The Journal’s sources describe an effort that is still in the early stages. Apple is reportedly talking to various media companies about those plans, including building a TV set, leveraging the company’s existing Apple TV family, or even basing its plans around AirPlay and its popular iOS mobile devices like iPhone and iPad.

The contrast is that some analysts, rumor articles based on supply chain leaks, and TV execs have stated definitively that Apple is working on making its own TV set. This dovetails with comments in Walter Isaacon’s biography Steve Jobs, in which the late tech icon said that he had “finally cracked” the code for making an interface to control a TV that was great.

According to the report, however, Apple is in direct talks with “media executives at several large companies” to update those companies on its plans. The implication behind the report is that these are the people talking to the newspaper.

Whoever the specific sources are, they said that Apple is considering using AirPlay to allow users to control their TVs through Apple’s mobile iOS devices. Supposedly, Apple executives, including Senior Vice President Eddy Cue, “have outlined new ways Apple’s technology could recognize users across phones, tablets and TVs, people familiar with the talks said.”

These include ways to make one’s TV respond to users’ voice commands and even movements, though whether this refers to gesture-based controls through a touch interface or something more akin to Microsoft’s Kinect motion detection wasn’t specified.

Such controls were also mentioned as only one possible line Apple could take, and that such concepts could take longer to bring to market than some of the other technologies the company is working on.

Apple has also described ways that users could stream content to its devices, allowing users to watch a program on one device (like a TV) and then finish watching it on a mobile device. Apple is also talking with these media executives about how they might work with Apple’s existing products such as the Apple TV, again with no specifics.

The company is also supposedly experimenting with DVR functionality and cloud storage of content. Apple already allows users to store iTunes-purchased video content through its iCloud service. That suggests that Apple is talking about ways to expand this kind of service beyond what it currently offers through iTunes.

So there you have it: Apple is working on several different concepts and technologies, and the way The Wall Street Journal describes it, Apple isn’t ready to roll out anything new just yet.