(Credit: Sarah Tew/CNET)

When Apple released the original iPhone in 2007, it was first to market with a truly game-changing device -- a phone with a legit touchscreen interface that could slip into your pocket. It also had a new operating system designed by Apple that would come to be known as iOS. Meanwhile, Google was in a bit of pickle with its competing Android OS, which was itself competing with other non-Apple mobile OSes.

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Google decided to more or less give Android away to build up a device ecosystem and a user base. And so far, it's worked. Now, according to CNBC, Apple is taking a page from Google and planning to give away its long-rumored upcoming original streaming content -- to users of the Apple TV streaming box, the iPad, and the iPhone.

Based on talks with "people familiar with the matter," CNBC reports that Apple is building a streaming platform that will combine original content and "subscription services from legacy media companies." An example of the latter type of content would be the streaming versions of HBO or Starz.

CNBC doesn't indicate that Apple is launching a live TV streaming service like Sling TV (Android, iOS) or YouTube TV (Android, iOS). From the sound of it, Apple is planning a largely on-demand service more like Netflix (Android, iOS) or Amazon Prime Video (Android, iOS). Regardless of which route Apple takes, it certainly has the funds to do pretty much whatever it likes -- including both types of streaming services -- since it reportedly has about $250 billion burning a hole in its pocket.

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Apple has this mountain of cash thanks to the perennial juggernaut success of the iPhone, plus services like iCloud and the iTunes Store. In fact, depending on who you ask, the company may actually be making more money on its services than on its physical products. According to multiple reports including CNBC's, Apple plans to initially invest $1 billion on streaming rights and content production for its upcoming service.

For reference, Netflix announced in January that it intended to spend $8 billion in 2018, -- which rival Hulu quickly countered with a commitment to spending an additional $20 billion. So as hard as it may be to believe, $1 billion is actually a relatively modest starting point.

It's not clear when Apple plans to launch its original streaming content, but we can say that the service is definitely taking a more concrete shape.

Takeaways

  • CNBC reports that Apple plans to give away its upcoming original streaming content to users of its Apple TV, iPhone, and iPad.
  • Apple is said to be investing $1 billion initially, which is actually modest compared to Netflix and Hulu investments.
  • However, it's not clear yet when Apple's service would actually launch.

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Tom McNamara is a Senior Editor for CNET's Download.com. He mainly covers Windows, mobile and desktop security, games, Google, streaming services, and social media. Tom was also an editor at Maximum PC and IGN, and his work has appeared on CNET, PC Gamer, MSN.com, and Salon.com. He's also unreasonably proud that he's kept the same phone for more than two years.