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Sunday, March 23, 2014, 07:45 pm PT (10:45 pm ET)

Apple discussing new streaming set-top box with Comcast - report

Apple is reportedly planning to release a new streaming set-top box, and is in talks with cable provider Comcast on a potential deal that would bypass Web congestion and allow faster and more reliable performance for users.

Apple TV


Talks between the two companies are said to be in the early stages, according to The Wall Street Journal. Apple is reportedly looking to have its own traffic separated from general Internet traffic over the "last mile" of connectivity, which represents the connection between Comcast and the end user's home.

During peak usage hours, when most people are home and accessing the Internet, connections can become considerably slow. This has a detrimental effect on streaming video services, like Apple's iTunes, Netflix, Hulu or others.

"Apple's goal would be to ensure users don't see hiccups in the service or buffering that can take place while streaming Web video, making its video the same quality as Comcast's TV transmissions to normal set-top boxes," the report said.

Details of the alleged talks between the two companies would seem to suggest that the discussions are similar to those that were held between Comcast and Netflix. In February, it was revealed that Netflix had cut a deal with Comcast to boost its connection speeds — an agreement that angered proponents of net neutrality, or the belief that all services on the Internet should be treated equally.

But Apple's desires go even further, as the company's interests would reportedly require Comcast to make "significant investments in network equipment and other back-office technology." Sources familiar with the talks indicated to the Journal that a deal between the two parties is not close.


Camera-equipped Apple TV concept via Brightcove.


Previously, Apple was said to be in ongoing talks with Time Warner Cable for a partnership centered around a new set-top streaming box that would act as a cable box, delivering live and on-demand content to Time Warner customers through IP TV. Reports have suggested that Apple is looking to cut deals with cable companies like Comcast and Time Warner directly, rather than dealing with content owners such as ESPN and HBO in a bid to bypass cable providers.

But any alleged talks between Time Warner and Apple may have hit a stumbling block when it was announced in February that Comcast intends to purchase the competing cable provider. Such an arrangement is almost certain to draw federal scrutiny and must still receive government approval before a merger would occur.

In recent weeks, there have been numerous reports claiming that an Apple TV update may be unveiled in the coming months. According to Bloomberg, the device could be unveiled as soon as April, but may not launch until this fall. A months-long wait between introduction and launch would likely mean a major shift for the platform, and potentially new opportunities for developers to create software.