Apple prepared to branch into a la carte programming with News Corp. and Disney

While not quite as blatant as Clearwire (Nasdaq: CLWR), which told the world about its mobile pay-as-you-go scheme days in advance of a press and analyst briefing this week, Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL) has hardly hidden today's technology day announcements under a bushel basket. The computer maker-cum-iEverything provider will launch a 99-cent-per-rental deal with Walt Disney Co. (NYSE: DIS) and News Corp. (Nasdaq: NWSA) providing the programming under a trial agreement, word in the blogosphere is.

If that sounds like the dreaded a la carte, it probably is. The programming deal isn't the only cable threat Apple could unveil during a press conference in San Francisco this afternoon (EDT). The blogosphere is also agoggle over the prospect that Apple will update its Apple TV platform (which it insists on calling iTV). The update would, among other things, link the iTunes content to a more conventional TV platform and perhaps even to the all-in-one TV Apple has forever been rumored to be developing.

Oddly enough, cable can't treat Apple as a total enemy--or even a competitor--as long as it controls the iPad, which, for now, is the only such device on the market. While Motorola (NYSE: MOT) and Samsung rush to enter the tablet space, cable is linking iPad with TV Everywhere via a number of specific applications. The industry's love affair with the iPad was made very public by Comcast (Nasdaq: CMCSA) Chairman Brian Roberts who showed it off at The Cable Show. Since then, Cablevision Systems (NYSE: CVC) and Time Warner Cable (NYSE: TWC-WI), among others, have jumped on the iPad bandwagon.

Apple has apparently learned one thing from its ongoing skirmishes with TV that Clearwire may not have mastered, despite its cable TV partners: Coming attractions should tease, but never reveal everything. With that in mind, basically every piece of speculation about today's event must be taken with a seed of cynicism since no one really knows what's going on, except Apple.

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