Apple was recently granted a patent (no. 8,243,017) that describes a video device with an onscreen menu, a recording feature and a channel navigation system. Patently Apple hypothesizes that this patent describes a way the Apple TV could be used to display, record and control the playback of cable TV programming.
One figure in the document clearly shows a video device that sits in between your cable set top box and your TV. It includes menu options to display an onscreen guide that lets you choose between television programs like Lost, Nature and Desperate Housewives. Another figure shows a channel navigation menu that's populated with shows from HBO, CBS and Discovery. There are also references to a DVR-like recording feature.
The patent was originally filed in Q4 2006 and published this week by the US Patent and Trademark Office.