Is Apple TV With Managed Service the "Something Big?"

Back in September 2013, Apple hired a CableLabs exec who promised he would be working on "something big." Is it possible the "something big" is a version of the Apple TV box that is optimized for cable TV delivery, with quality of service mechanisms, for example?


Even at the time, the speculation was thatJean-François Mulé, former senior VP at CableLabs, the cable industry development organization, was going to be working on a cable-optimized set-top box.


Now there are rumors that Apple is in talks with cable giant Comcast about a streaming TV service that would offer live and on-demand content. In one sense, that might not be unusual. Lots of video streaming services are available today.  


The really big change would be if the offering wound up being a managed service, with quality of service guarantees, much as voice and existing linear TV services feature quality of service mechanisms.


According to a Wall Street Journal report, the service would enhance traditional cable channels and over the top, cloud-based video.


And the significant aspect is that Apple apparently wants to bypass the public Internet and deliver non-Comcast content using the same delivery methods Comcast already uses for its own video and data services.


In other words, Apple wants to provide a managed over the top video streaming service, with quality of service mechanisms.


Given Apple’s historic concern for quality and elegance, such management would be the only way an “Apple” premium experience could be assured.


In case the implications are not clear, this would mean Apple itself wants to deliver over the top Internet video as a managed service, not subject to congestion the best effort Internet encounters.


And the bandwidth demands could be substantial. In addition to supporting stall-free video on the “watching now” channel, what if Apple also wants to allow over the top video to be recorded on digital video recorders as well?


That could involve simultaneous delivery of up to five video streams. Even on a fast connection, that might be problematic.

Ironically, for some observers, Apple’s desire to create a managed service, with quality of service guarantees, points out the defects of “best effort only” network neutrality rules. Blocking is not the issue: quality of experience is the issue.


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