Apple has reignited speculation of a renewed push into TV and home entertainment products, quietly hiring a cable and networking specialist to work on "part of something big" for the Cupertino firm. Former CableLabs engineer Jean-François Mulé confirmed the move on his LinkedIn profile, with his new title the vague "Engineering Director" at Apple. However, there are already suggestions that the new exec's expertise in PeerConnect could be of particular interest to his new employer.
PeerConnect effectively works as a directory between cable operators and other companies, providing the interlink information required to successfully route voice and video calls, messages, streaming media, and other IP communications between points.
"The PeerConnect registry connects cable operators and their partners so they can exchange the data necessary to establish voice and video calls, SMS messages and other forms of IP communications between their respective networks" CableLabs said back in September 2011, when PeerConnect was launched. "The registry service also allows CableLabs member companies deploying mobile wireless services to distribute the wireless numbers they serve to a variety of SMS-MMS service providers."
According to Mulé's profile, as Senior VP of Technology Development at CableLabs he worked on the "Wi-Fi gateways, device management, inter-operator Wi-Fi roaming, and mobile offload services using femtocells and Wi-Fi" as well as being "involved in several high-profile, IP-based CableLabs programs such as DOCSIS 3.0 and APIs for second screen video apps."
Apple has for some time been arguing that it no longer sees Apple TV as "a hobby", and in fact the set-top box received an update just last month adding iTunes Radio, more streaming sources, and other features. It also enabled better Bluetooth interaction between Apple TV and iOS devices, beginning with streamlining setup of network and iTunes account settings through copying them over from iPhone to streamer with a single tap.
However, many are still expecting Apple to make a push for the full-sized TV market, despite the questionable margins in the segment. The company is believed to have been attempting a de-bundling push for select cable TV channels for some time now, but content owners have supposedly been reluctant to agree out of concerns that they will no longer be able to command premium prices for their huge bundles of channels.
A similar issue has reportedly hamstrung Intel's own web TV push, leaving the chip company looking for big-name support from Samsung and others to get its scheme back on track.
One possibility is that by better working with cable industry standards like PeerConnect, Apple could position itself more comprehensively in the pipeline of the home entertainment feed, rather than trying to usurp the established players. Instead of ousting the cable companies, Apple could use tight integration with interconnect systems like PeerConnect to inject its own, more user-friendly navigation tools - such as voice-controlled program search and channel navigation through Siri - to add value and better own the experience rather than directly fight with existing providers.