Apple's long-rumored play for the television space seems to have changed: The Wall Street Journal is reporting that the company is in talks with cable operators to provide a set-top box that provides live television channels, rather than licensing content in order to offer its own streaming service. As far as the publication's anonymous sources are aware, no deals have been reached, and yet the idea has been on the table for some time: "Apple contemplated building a cable set-top box more than two years ago before it launched the latest version of its Apple TV," according to one of the Journal's sources.

Reportedly, negotiations for a cable box have stalled because of a variety of Apple demands, including a 30 percent cut on "certain transactions" and the right to an exclusive on providing IP technology of some sort. It's not clear whether that refers to straight-up IPTV service (whereby Apple would provide content over an internet connection) or IP control, where devices could communicate with the box over a network rather than using dumb infrared commands. Dish presently allows Google TV boxes to communicate with its DVRs using IP control, allowing users to more directly control content and schedule recordings. Before he passed away, Steve Jobs told his biographer that he'd dreamt up "the simplest user interface you could imagine" for an integrated smart TV.

According to the publication, a full-size Apple television may still be in the cards, as the anonymous sources corroborate rumors that Apple has built prototypes of such devices before.

Update: More rumored details here.