A veteran CableLabs exec, Jean-François Mule, has joined Apple to, as he put it, be “challenged, inspired and part of something big.” He started in the role of engineering director in September.
Mule was CableLabs' senior vice president of technology development for two years, was director of PacketCable Architecture and chief architect for the organization before that. Over the course of his time there, he was involved in the DOCSIS 3.0 development as well.
According to Multichannel, Mule was involved in a number of high-profile initiatives, including CableLabs' DOCSIS 3.0 program and the creation of APIs for so-called "second screen" video apps.
It’s clear that TV is of paramount importance to Apple. "When I go into my living room and turn on the TV, I feel like I have gone backwards in time by 20 to 30 years," Apple CEO Tim Cook told NBC News anchor Brian Williams in an interview in December. "It's an area of intense interest. I can't say more than that."
Image courtesy Shutterstock
But how it wants to go about getting into the business seems unclear—perhaps that’s what Mule was brought in to help clarify. Options (and rumors) include making a connected HDTV itself, which would be a tough, high-volume business to break into (and attempting to rival Sony, Samsung and LG would prove prohibitive, at least at first).
Other sources have said the company is working to branch out into smart monitors and peripherals, or to issue a new set-top box (STB) strategy for partnering up with pay-TV operators to become the middleware for operator-issued STBs. The latter is a rumor the Wall Street Journal explored last year.
Also on the cable and satellite front, reports in July said that Apple is mulling a premium TV play with a business model that would offer consumers the ability to pay a subscription in order to skip over ads; Apple would then compensate TV networks and cable/IPTV for the lost revenue. Sources familiar with the discussions have revealed that Apple continues to approach pay-TV distributors, like Time Warner Cable, to strike a deal for the companies to use an Apple-branded set-top box and user interface for delivering television—one feature of which would be ad-skipping. Of course, the last thing a cable multiple-system operator wants to do is relinquish the branding aspects afforded by the customer’s user interface, meaning that Apple’s quest to get into the big-boy STB business—reported since last fall—has been less than smooth.
Meanwhile, Apple is still updating its existing palm-sized Apple TV set-top gadget though, which offers Netflix, iTunes and YouTube content. In late September it released a refreshed version of its Apple TV software (after a premature launch and subsequent deletion last week from the iTunes store) with the AirPlay from iCloud capability, which takes on the Google Chromecast dongle directly by allowing users to keep content in the cloud and simply pull it down to the TV, no download required. In the past, content would have to be streamed first to an iPhone, iPad or iPod touch, and then synced from there via AirPlay to the Apple TV set-top. The result is a reduction in local bandwidth usage. Take note however: it only works with iOS 7 devices.
Edited by Rory J. Thompson