FCC filing says Apple exploring development of a set-top box

Apple TV Air Remote (Martin Hajek 004)

Evidence is mounting that Apple is working on advancing its $99 set-top box around a bunch of new features like downloadable apps and games, iOS 7 game controller support, streamable television channels and subscriptions, DVR and wireless AirPort router capabilities, cable box functionality and what not. Whether any of this pans out is up for debate.

That said, surely Apple won’t be standing still as new entrants like Amazon enter the crowded living room space. Perhaps the most solid piece of evidence to date comes in a filing with the United States Federal Communications Commission (FCC) related to the planned Comcast and Time Warner Cable merger.

Hit the jump for more…

As first noted on Twitter by The Wall Street Journal’s resident Apple reporter Daisuke Wakabayashi, Comcast says in the filing the Apple is “exploring development of an Apple set-top box”.

Here’s an excerpt from the filing (emphasis mine):

The traditional boundaries between media, communications, and technology are obsolete.  The competitive ecosystem in which we operate includes companies with national and even global–  scale like AT&T, Verizon, DirecTV, DISH, Netflix, Amazon, Apple, Yahoo, Google, and Facebook – who are competing with each other and us in unprecedented ways.

Apple tablets are viewing platforms for cable services even while Apple offers an online video service, Apple TV, and explores development of an Apple set-top box.

The ‘Apple set-top box’ part is pretty interesting as it appears to make an important distinction from the existing Apple TV boxes. Eagle-eyed readers will remember that former Wall Street Journal reporter Jessica Lessin made the same distinction in her article from last month.

Could Comcast simply be speculating here?

Apple TV mockup (Curved.de 006)

Quite possibly, even more so with all the crazy talk of a next-gen Apple TV. For all we know, Comcast may have gone overboard on proving how competitive the landscape is.

On the other hand, you don’t speculate much in official filings with government agencies and you especially don’t toss in such speculation with so much at stake with the planned Comcast/Time Warner Cable merger.

On the other hand, public filings often contain assumptions and forward looking statements that may not be 100 percent accurate so…

Set top boxes (Qwilt 001)

At any rate, Apple and Comcast/Time Warner Cable are said to be working on a streaming television service for the next Apple TV. According to internal emails made public as part of Apple’s second California trial against Samsung, late Steve Jobs was exploring apps, ‘magic wand’ and other new features for the Apple TV.

The living room space has some some action lately as Amazon’s $99 set-top box, the Fire TV, released with voice input and games. The online retailer said this morning it’s now passed Apple and Hulu in streaming video usage, citing recent research from Qwilt, as illustrated above.

Google, too, is reportedly readying something called Android TV, basically a reboot of its ill-fated Google TV platform. The search monster’s set-top box should feature voice input and offer downloadable apps and games, as per The Verge.

Speaking of rumors, The Korea Herald on Sunday relayed IBK’s note to clients claiming Apple had commissioned a local South Korean display panel maker to do a limited run of 65-inch OLED HDTV screens for the company.

Apple’s been rumored for years to be considering releasing a standalone television set.

Next-gen Apple TV renderings by Martin Hajek for Curved.de.