Apple patent hints at TV, DVR in iPods

Apple’s latest patent for recording and watching live television on its media players sounds fanciful, but it might not be far from reality.

Patently Apple dug up a patent that covers the ability to watch and record live television on iPods and iPhones. It’s like a video version of the existing iPod Nano’s FM Radio, which has the ability to pause live radio and tag songs in iTunes. In fact, both ideas share the same patent application, even though the video capability hasn’t been released yet.

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Considered along with another patent for a push-button antenna, it’s possible that Apple is planning to add over-the-air, satellite TV or even recorded cable TV to its media players, along with a DVR. The patent calls for the ability to change channels by rotating the finger around a virtual or physical dial, and it has some nice flourishes like adaptive playlists (not unlike the patent for a music player that learns what you do.)

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Some things in this patent don’t jive, though. The patent calls for a separate receiver connected to an antenna to accommodate legacy iPhones and iPod touches, but that seems like an inelegant solution for a company that values form as much as function. I’m also skeptical of a plan to record live TV from a cable connection for later viewing. It may be theoretically possible, but I can’t imagine cable companies taking kindly to it. It seems more likely that a TV-enabled player would grab over-the-air broadcasts, or perhaps the live TV service FloTV.

It’s been reported that Apple wants to step further into the role of video provider, seeking to strike subscription television deals with networks and studios. This could be a contingency effort in case those negotiations fall through, or it could be part of the plan.

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