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Apple TV could double as cable box, report says

Apple wants to make its streaming set-top box double as a cable box and is in talks with operators, according to a Wall Street Journal report.

Apple's set-top box could be destined to stream live TV channels, according to a new report.

Citing "people familiar with the matter," the Wall Street Journal (subscription required) says that Apple has been in talks with cable operators in the U.S. to pitch its $99 streamer as an alternative to the set top boxes cable subscribers rent.

The report suggests no deals have yet been made toward that goal, but that Apple has at least talked with cable provider Time Warner.

The Apple TV has remained what Apple considers a "hobby" device when compared with the sales and popularity of products like the iPod, iPhone and iPad. Nonetheless, the company has pointed to increasing sales in recent earnings calls, with CEO Tim Cook dropping the notion that even though it's not a blockbuster, the company didn't keep around products it didn't like.

Apple, of course has long been rumored to be working on a TV set, a rumor that's rooted in some fact. Late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs told biographer Walter Isaacson that he wanted "to create an integrated television set that is completely easy to use" and that he "finally cracked it." Since then there has been no shortage of rumors that suggest Apple is still at work on such a product.

The Journal's report suggests Apple could go with an intermediary device for people who do not want to buy an all new set and instead replace some of the basic functionality of standard cable boxes.