Apple has been granted an important patent today, covering two missing features of its $99 Apple TV set-top box: the ability to pull premium programming via cable television networks and display it alongside show information overlaid in menus, plus the ability to record television shows, DVR style…
Jack Purcher of PatentlyApple first discovered Apple’s patent grant in the United States Patent & Trademark Office’s database.
The invention envisions a complex user interface calling for a menu overlay rendered on top of the live video area, to display useful information related to the show at hand.
More exciting than that, the below patent illustration depicts an Apple TV working in conjunction with regular cable TV, in this case Fox channels.
The patent was originally filed in the fourth quarter of 2006, a few months before the iPhone was publicly unveiled. Apple credits engineers Rainer Brodersen, Rachel Goldeen, Mihnea Pacurariu and Jeffery Ma as the inventors.
Here’s DVR functionality depicted.
Check out a Record button in the patent drawing.
Apple sold an impressive 1.3 million Apple TVs last quarter, a cool 170 percent year-over-year growth. All told, Apple moved over four million Apple TVs this year alone, yet the company’s leadership insists it’s still a hobby project.
While the patent might indicate Apple’s plans for an advanced iOS-based Smart TV of sorts, a lot of these filings never see the light of day in an actual product.
However, given Apple’s already strong living room presence and credibility, swirling connected TV set rumors and excruciating details outlined in this particular patent, the Cupertino, California company is clearly actively thinking about improving the television experience.
Whether or not DVR and cable TV integration is meant for a standalone TV set from Apple or a future iteration of its Apple TV box remains to be seen.
Whichever way you look at it, the Apple TV has a nice set of features – except for the TV part. Most of the content comes either via its built-in support for video sharing services like YouTube and Vimeo, through Hulu integration and, of course, via Apple’s iTunes ecosystem.
The ability to watch cable television, pause and record shows and bring up an overlay with show information – these are all glaring omissions that Apple needs to address if it wants to mainstream its little hockey puck thing.