​Instead of building a TV streaming service Apple is building the next-gen cable box

Apple has been has been in negotiations with TV networks and studios for several years in an attempt to bring a streaming TV service to market, multiple rumors would have us believe. However, those negotiations have not resulted in a product launch or announcement. Meanwhile, Apple has announced some new features for its eight-month-old 4th generation Apple TV.

I think these new features may signal a change of course for Apple: instead of concentrating on building their own streaming service, they'll settle for building the 'cable box' of the future.

Apple is building out several small features that when taken together make it much easier for users to find apps and content they have access to. For example, a user can authenticate once with their pay TV provider and be presented with all the apps they have access to without having to sign into each individually. The user can also navigate to specific channels (such as ESPN2) using Siri. I can imagine several more features in this vein: ask Siri what is playing on a specific channel, ask Siri what live sports are on, some form of interactive TV guide. Why not add other features of modern streaming apps like picture-in-picture, and supplemental information such as live stats and related Tweets?

As pay TV providers evolve, and more entrants come to market with Internet-only products, the Apple TV could have a very robust array of content available. However, this content would presumably be available on several other devices and it's not clear if Apple will be able to differentiate its product enough to command a premium price. This puts the Apple TV in a similar position to any computer, where Apple focuses on an improved user experience to win customers over. I like their chances, but this market will likely not be as large or as lucrative as smartphones, laptops, or probably even watches. Therefore, I wouldn't be surprised if we continue to hear rumors about Apple negotiating with TV providers for the foreseeable future.