Boxing match: Cisco, Apple TV beef up products

Even as Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) again plots a course into the set-top box space, a pair of incumbent providers are beefing up their products. Cisco (Nasdaq: CSCO) will reportedly unveil a product that combines the Web with on-demand and recorded TV. At the same time, Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL) is getting some much-needed enhancements to its search and hardware options.

The Cisco news isn't--or at least shouldn't be--a surprise. With leading MSO Comcast clearly leaning in the direction of a merged Web-cable offering, it seems not only logical but incumbent upon one of the industry's notorious set-top duopoly members to enter the fray with a new product that mirrors or exceeds the Pace boxes being used in an Augusta, Ga. trial.

As for Apple, at the very minimum it's improving elements that needed improvement with new broadcast TV menus and programming search options. It's also, some reports suggest, moving away from a set-top box altogether and towards a cable card to be inserted into media devices.

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