Cable companies are concerned about flat growth and a rising number of potential customers interested in other things. So what's a cable company to do? Enlist Apple to get people to subscribe again, of course. 

The Wall Street Journal's Jessica E. Vascellaro and Shalini Ramachandran report "some of the biggest U.S. cable operators," are in talks with Apple to start offering an Apple device as your cable set-top box. They report a deal hasn't been struck yet, and it might be because cable companies are having cold feet about letting Apple gain any real traction in the living room. The idea of an Apple set-top box would likely be a super-charged version of the current Apple TV product. You could seamlessly jump from your regular cable channels, to your Netflix account, to the Apple store to shop for movies, plus a huge hard drive, and so on and so forth. This isn't Google Fibre TV. Apple doesn't want to supply the channels, just their sleek design and interface to be what your cable comes through. It would still be a huge jump for Apple into your living room with a product that might make cable sexy again. Apple doesn't supply the actual phone service for iPhones, but they control the app store and it's a huge draw. How Apple could do that with cable is unclear, but it could be part of their master plan. 

Two people told Vascellaro and Ramachandran "the technology involved could ultimately be embedded in a television," but we've played the Apple TV -- like a TV made by Apple, not a little gray box -- rumor game before. This seems like the not-so-distant cousin to the rumors from April that Apple was negotiating with movie studios for potential Apple TV content deals. They already have pay-per-view movies supplied through the iTunes store. Instead of trying to compete with Netflix (which already has an Apple TV app), if they just iPhone the cable game then their Apple TV problems are solved. And there were the Foxconn rumors that proved to be (sort of) false. We'll believe the Apple TV rumors, whatever they are, when we see the line-ups on launch day.