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What Does Apple Have Planned for TV?

Could Apple be working on a new TV? Or bigger still, could they be working on becoming an online television provider?

Apple has just hired a cable industry veteran and former CableLabs vice president of technology Jean-François Mulé for an unspecified position.

Multichannel News was the first to report that Mulé had updated his LinkedIn profile to say that has joined Apple, where he will be "challenged, inspired and part of something big," as he wrote in his LinkedIn job description.

Just what that "something big" could be has got the Internet in a tizzy.

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Apple TV, the set-top box that lets people get Netflix, Hulu, iTunes and other video- streaming apps on their TV, was conspicuously absent at Apple's Sept. 10 media event, which focused on the iPhone 5s and 5c.

However, rumor has it there'll be another event one on Oct. 15. It's possible that Apple may announce an update to Apple TV then, either in terms of hardware or software.

Currently, Apple TV narrowly edges out the Roku as the most popular set-top box, according to research firm NPD, though game consoles such as the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 still have dedicated set-top boxes beaten hands down.

When Apple TV first came out, it was primarily a way to get iTunes video and Netflix directly on your TV. It's since expanded to include Hulu, ESPN and HBO Go, among others. Mulé's hire is just the latest in a string of announcements showing that Apple is becoming more and more interested in the television market.

It's pretty likely that Apple has an Apple TV update in the works. But it seems just as likely that Mulé's "something big" has got to be more than just a few more apps on a slightly fancier set-top box.

Could Apple be turning itself into a full-on television provider, as has been rumored for some time now?

Mark Pedowitz, president of the CW network, confirmed last April that CW shows would be coming to Apple TV, presumably in an app-based streaming format similar to the way CW currently appears on Xbox and other Microsoft devices.

And Apple is rumored to be in talks with Time Warner Cable to get its programs on Apple TV. Time Warner Cable already has similar deals with Roku and Xbox.

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It's not easy to become a television provider, as Intel — best known for its processing chips and other hardware — is finding out with its planned service OnCue. Reports say that OnCue's debut has been pushed back from this year to 2014.

Apple is a bit better-placed to make an impact in the television market than Intel, as Apple has been a media distribution platform for some time now.  The question is, can Apple make enough deals with enough content providers that Apple TV becomes a comprehensive yet affordable option for watching TV?

Could Apple TV even encourage people to "cut the cord" — that is, to eschew traditional cable packages in favor of getting their television content over Apple's distribution platform?

Now that would really be "something big."

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