Apple has been granted a patent (number 10,924,793) for a “generic streaming media device configured as a set-top box” that hints at a future iteration of the Apple TV set-top box that could replace your cable box.
In the patent filing, Apple notes that content providers such as cable TV providers use dedicated hardware for set-top boxes and these set-top boxes use a cable card to authenticate the set top box to the cable TV provider. The cable card is dedicated to operate with the cable TV provider and includes cryptographic information which is used in the authentication process to ensure that the cable TV provider is providing content delivery through the set top box in a secure manner that can be controlled by the cable TV provider. Cable TV providers are one example of the type of content providers that can be referred to as multiple channel video programming distributors.
Generic streaming media devices such as the Apple TV can be used to stream content from sources such as iTunes, etc., but it and similar devices don’t include dedicated hardware for authenticating the device to content providers such as cable TV providers or other types of providers that can be considered to be multiple channel video programming distributors. Apple wants to change this.
Here’s the summary of the patent: “Methods and systems are described for setting up, in one embodiment, a generic streaming media device as a set-top box for a multichannel content provider that provides a content delivery service. The set up process can be performed automatically and as background operations while a user manually sets up the device, in foreground operations, for use with an online streaming media store or source of content.
“The set up process can use a device token that was previously associated with the multichannel content provider for use with the device during the set up process. The device token can be stored by the developer of the device and sent by the developer to the multichannel content provider during a set up process of the device; the device token can be opaque to the developer but provides information used by the multichannel content provider to set up the device as a set top box.”