According to Multichannel News, Apple has just hired Jean-François Mulé, formerly of CableLabs. Mulé spent six years at the cable firm, where he was VP of technology development—although he previously worked on IP-TV projects and is said to have expertise in building VoIP and Wi-Fi systems. He's now the engineering director at Apple.
Mulé's LinkedIn profile confirms the news, and also notes that he is "Challenged, inspired and part of something big." What could that be?
The tech world has immediately connected Mulé's expertise with the long-standing rumor that Apple is getting ready to innovate in the TV market, hopefully bringing the same smarts and imagination that it used to revolutionize digital music players, smartphones, and portable computing technology. The theory is that Apple's powerful little Apple TV set-top box is just a primer or test run for Apple's real TV push, which may come in the form of a full TV set sporting a novel control interface that may include voice and possibly gestural controls.
But it's also worth noting that Apple has used the launch of iOS7 to debut its new voice-only FaceTime product, a VoIP solution that is a real challenge to the control cell phone networks have over how their clients actually use their devices. The company is also beginning to push into smart location-based services and, possibly, payment technology with its new iBeacon devices. Mulé's expertise could fit nicely into either of these categories. Separately, Apple recently bought Matcha.tv, a small startup that used clever algorithms to recommend TV and movie-watching options to viewers based on their watching habits, and this also ignited Apple TV rumors.