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Summary:

If Apple wants to dominate the living room, it will have to do better than the AppleTV. So with rumors abounding that the company is poised to launch a new consumer device, it’s time for a wish list as to what such a device would like like.

Apple’s bland launch of a thinner Nano left the Mac faithful craving more. Now rumors are flying around the Net about a new device, with Apple retailers being asked to return their existing Apple TVs by Sept. 30 and mysterious placeholder SKUs showing up in Future Shop’s inventory system.

Apple dominates music and consumer mobility. The MacBook is selling in record numbers. But despite making consumer-friendly products for the whole family, Apple has failed in an increasingly important market that includes TV, movies, music and gaming, and will soon encompass videoconferencing, education and more: The living room.

If Apple wants to be the digital hearth, it will have to do better than AppleTV, and the impending announcement may launch just such a product. So what would the perfect Apple consumer device look like?

  • TV tuner and set-top PVR to take on TiVo, with streaming and synchronization to Apple’s mobile devices, the way Slingbox does, handled through a more reliable MobileMe
  • Controllers with accelerometers and a set-top App Store to rival what’s on the iPhone and iPod Touch
  • Videoconferencing-capable features to connect a distributed family via iChat
  • Computing features (mail, documents and so on) that make it a decent set-top computer terminal
  • Broad support for emerging wireless standards, so it looks like a file server to other devices
  • Better integration with stereo systems, tied into the whole family’s iTunes accounts, on par with Roku or the audiophile-friendly Squeezebox
  • Good cosmetics so it can mount cleanly to a wall or behind a flatscreen

Why should Apple get serious about the living room?

1. Get iTunes into the home. Apple has the industry’s most successful entertainment delivery infrastructure, and Jobs has strong ties to the industry through Disney. But the company has failed to connect that infrastructure to consumers beyond iTunes and the iPhone. AppleTV is little more than an iTunes connector for televisions: Not enough TV to tackle Tivo, not enough mobile streaming to supplant Slingbox. Apple CEO Steve Jobs called it a “hobby.”

2. Push back at the consoles. Gaming has given Microsoft, Nintendo and Sony a shelf slot next to the TV. Nintendo’s Wii has especially broad appeal and is encroaching on learning and teaching with almost Apple-like individuality. But with the exception of casual iPhone games and some Mac software, Apple is shut out of the lucrative gaming industry.

3. Casual gaming. The success of Apple’s App Store (with 100 million downloads in the first 60 days) has given Apple a glimpse of how lucrative gaming can be. Casual gaming, which the industry estimates is a $2.25 billion industry, has a much broader market appeal than hardcore gaming — think boomers and kids weaned on Webkins. With an Intel-based chipset and plenty of casual games, the company could make iPhone games run on a set-top box and ink a deal with Disney to target the younger set.

Apple’s strong notebook and phone sales mean the company has a chance at mainstream households. If it’s going to win that war, it needs to leverage its mobile and entertainment strengths and take the fight to the heart of the household with a strong set-top offering.

  1. [...] responds to TR’s ThinkPad discussion GigaOm: The Perfect Apple for the Living RoomAndrew Nusca: Apple won’t face lawsuit over iPhone battery [...]

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  2. I bought the AppleTV when it first came out and I’ve been happy with it ever since. Although, I find that I don’t have a lot of time to enjoy using it. I guess that if they come out with some nifty features, then that’d be awesome…as long as I don’t need to buy all new hardware for it.

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  3. a mac mini running boxee is awesome and it’s what i have in my two family rooms connected to a big screen

    if they could make the mac mini hardware half the price, produce an ipod touch-like remote, and put boxee on it, they’d own the living room for the next 20 years

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  4. [...] room must have thingamajig. Or not MacRumors downplays its original report. GigaOm cooks up what the ultimate Apple TV replacement would do. No matter what Apple cooks up it’s going to have a tough slog. Why? The fundamental premise of [...]

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  5. I have two AppleTVs and love them. I have long thought that the current AppleTV is the Ipod Gen1, maybe Gen2. Give them a couple more iterations and it will take off like the Ipod did. Labeling it as a “hobby” to me was just a move to take pressure off since everything needs to be a home run right out of the gate like the iPhone was. Looking forward to the next Gen AppleTV.

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  6. [...] сайт, gigaom.com, описал по некоторые функции, которые Apple стоило бы [...]

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  7. At least two tuners.

    500 GB hard drive.

    Tivo- or Harmony-inspired remote.

    Must *always* be *instantly* responsive to keypresses from the remote.

    Accurate episode listings.

    Do these 5 things at an attractive price (preferably with no subscription fee, or at least a lifetime option) and they have beat every other DVR on the market. Everything else would be gravy.

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  8. Guys, I think we’re looking at this from the perspective of what we want, rather than what Steve Jobs wants, which for the most part is ease of use. If he’s taking Apple TV away, its replacement is not going to be filled with bells and whistles. It’s certainly not going to have a DVR. How does Apple expect to sell TV shows through iTunes if it’s easy record them on a set-top box?

    No, what’s going to happen here is that Apple TV will go from being a stand-alone box to an iPod dock for televisions. Same features, same nifty interface, but instead of having its own hard drive, it’ll use the iPod. And why not? There are millions of iPods out there and only thousands of Apple TVs. Why introduce a separate device when you can make the iPod/iPhone the center of everything?

    And Jobs will make sure that any iPod/iPhone works with any Apple TV dock. Then he can sell the docks to every hotel chain in the country, and the hotels can charge people $1 or $2 a night to use those docks, because travelers will be much more inclined to do that than blow $5 a PPV movie.

    Games might come later, but for now, this is all about making Apple TV a dock for the iPod. That’s all.

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  9. Good point about gaming. Honestly, that’s the major salvo PCs have at this point. Sure, Spore came out on the Mac and that’s a step in the right direction. However, Microsoft has such a big lead in this area and has a strong relationship with hardware vendors (vid cards especially with DirectX integration)

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