Great companies are often defined by at least one key characteristic that sets them apart from, and often times above, the rest of the corporate world.

Tech giant Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) is perhaps most closely associated with its relentless drive to design devices that founder Steve Jobs would famously describe as "insanely great." Wal-Mart's constant pursuit of "everyday low prices" served as the rocket fuel that helped propel it to become the world's largest retailer.

If you had to pinpoint tech giant's (NASDAQ:AMZN) defining trait, it very well could be its ambition. Because like perhaps no other company on earth, Amazon appears to be continually searching for new industries to upend and eventually dominate.

And according to a recent set of rumors, Amazon has once again set its sights on yet another industry it hopes to one day dominate.

Amazon Logo

Source: Amazon

Amazon TV: Coming soon
Last week, news surfaced once again that Amazon is well under way in the development of a dedicated Amazon TV set-top box the online retailer is planning to launch in the coming months.

This isn't the first rumor of an Amazon set-top box. Word of the project broke last fall when news outlets reported that Amazon had hopes of bringing the box to market in time for the holiday season. That never panned out, as we now know. But as so often is the case with Amazon, the launch delay apparently did little to assuage the company's astounding ambition.

As you might imagine for a product still in development, there's little known in the way of firm details, but the general concept at least appears to be similar to Apple's Apple TV or Roku box.

Apple Tv

Source: Apple

Amazon's TV box, like Amazon's other Kindle Fire products, appears will be powered by a version of Google's Android mobile operating system. It will, of course, also serve as another delivery mechanism for Amazon Prime's streaming service. Like Apple, Amazon has been rumored to be in discussions with cable providers with the hopes of providing live streaming and on-demand viewing capabilities as well. 

An industry on the brink of revolution?
Many see the television as one of the next great pockets of opportunity for consumer tech names like Apple and Amazon, and these rumors of each company doubling down its efforts on an advanced set-top-box device only serve to reiterate this notion.

But the current economics of the cable industry leave both the content providers and cable operators with powerful vested interests that will be hard to overcome.

If rumors are to be believed, both Apple and Amazon intend on launching their next respective set-top boxes this spring, with some claiming Amazon's TV will be unveiled as early as next month. As two of the most powerful and sophisticated technology companies in the world, the kinds of innovations that they're both able to bring to market with their latest products will certainly have plenty to say about the state of the TV market in general.

But those hoping for something truly revolutionary might do well to temper their expectations just a bit. Apple's and Amazon's coming updates, while certainly better, might not offer the kind of truly revolutionary improvements many are hoping they will.

Profit from the coming collapse of cable
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Andrew Tonner owns shares of Apple. The Motley Fool recommends, Apple, and Google. The Motley Fool owns shares of, Apple, and Google. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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