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Does the New iMac Foretell the Next Apple TV?

new imacs

Apple’s (s aapl) brand new 27-inch iMacs come with an interesting feature: the ability to act as a display for connected devices via the built-in DisplayPort connection. This means that, with the proper adaptors, you can connect an array of home theatre devices to the iMac, including Blu-Ray players. The screen has also moved to the HDTV standard 16:9 ratio and it’s wall mountable. All of this makes me think one thing, my next HDTV may be an iMac.

The setup would be relatively straightforward. The new iMacs already come with wireless mouse and keyboard, so controlling it from your couch isn’t a problem. Add a tuner attachment from Elgato to get your cable on the iMac, as well as DVR capabilities. Plug in your Blu-Ray player via DisplayPort and then install any of the plethora of multimedia interfaces available for the Mac. My personal favorite is Boxee.

None of this is particularly groundbreaking, you could have done something very similar with a bit more hackage the day before the new iMacs were announced. But it does lead one to start thinking in an interesting direction. There’s no doubt that the computer and the television are moving towards convergence. Apple’s made its first play for the digital living room with the Apple TV, to less than impressive results, as we’ve discussed before. It’s also a company that learns from its mistakes and has a history of taking small, evolutionary steps that can, in a few years, add up to some really exciting changes. Just look at how they’ve handled multitouch.

Combine these small steps with the slow death of desktop computers and Apple has to be thinking about what the future of the iMac will be. What would be the next steps toward a real iMac as HDTV? Well, you’d need to integrate the tuner, and you’d definitely have to offer a large range of sizes, while simultaneously dropping prices. This wouldn’t be quite as hard as you might imagine. The current 27-inch iMac is much more powerful than you really need, and the cost of LCD displays is quickly dropping. Integrate the Apple TV’s media interface and tweak OS X a bit to make it easier to control from ten feet away and you’re almost there.

Do I think this is definitely the direction Apple is moving with the iMac? Not necessarily, but its actions thus far have certainly got me thinking about it and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Apple make a strong play at the high-end of the HDTV market. In a few years you may be able to buy 30, 40 and 50 inch iMacs, at a premium over standard HDTVs, but with a lot more functionality built-in. It’s certainly Apple’s style to go into an industry and try to slice off the top 10 percent of market share, which also happens to include the lion’s share of the profits. It’s done it in computers, it’s done it with cell phones, why not with HDTVs?

31 Responses to “Does the New iMac Foretell the Next Apple TV?”

  1. I have the 27” iMac with eyetv and mako speakers,i find this more than enough in my apartment, it gives me everything i need in one package,though i would like eyetv to be able to run in the background without the monitor coming on as it’s pretty bright and wakes me up.

  2. Really interesting discussion. we have an old but great CRT TV that I am going to replace. I also have a G5 iMac in the office that i may be replacing soon… so i was thinking of buying the new 27inch iMac, adding a tuner and having the imac as our TV, Media storage and viewer, HD Movie player (mostly downloaded, i don’t have blue ray at the moment). I guess the one thing that is stopping me is as you have discussed, the useability of the os part for web surfing, doc writing etc… at 10′ on the couch…. tricky!!!

  3. Mac’s are amazing. You can upload your photo’s and edit. And send to other users on IM’s and messengers and more. It has an amazingly fast internet so you can upload them and edit on a website if you want. and there’s also something called …

  4. I concur 100% with the premise of this blog.

    We are in the process of buying an iMac 27″ for our living room together with Elgato’s EyeTV. This will be hooked up to AudioEngine A5 powered speakers. Most of the news we get via the internet (C-span, Bill Moyers Journal, Daily Show, etc). My spouse likes to watch YouTube a lot for her music. Right now we listen to our music using an Airport Express connected to AudioEngine A5s. So, for us it will be just perfect.

    We will have to evaluate how well the wireless keyboard and mouse will work at 10′. In the mean time we hope to be using the Apple Remote to control the iMac via Front Row.

    Yes it would be nice if the screen was 40″, but then it would be harder to use as a computer up close.

  5. Screens are not where Apple can make it money. But the UI is, having an iMac that can be on the same network as an upgraded Apple TV and perhaps a home server (this could be the Apple TV) sharing all media seamlessly would be ideal. We already have an OS in almost all TV boxes and most suck, the simplicity and stability of OSX is needed for any consumer device to succeed.

    Apple may taylor its future displays to also work as a TV for those willing to pay the premium, but TVs are an ultra competitive market.

  6. After looking at IPTV and other types of “on demand” entertainment into the living room, we have seen just how hard the navigation of thousands of titles on a television really is. As any person who is responsible for defining “Video on Demand” service in a telecommunications company and they’ll probably agree that is one of the biggest challenges.

    I think this is going to be Apple’s strongest value for the battle of the living room; they have arguably the best UI on the planet for managing and navigating files and now with some of these features on the iMac, I see this as a real possibility.

    Now couple this with an intelligent remote control…..gee something like the Remote app on the iPod touch or maybe the much rumored “tablet” and Apple has a very powerful Living-room story.

  7. Using the keyboard and mouse that comes with your iMac is hardly the ideal interface for your coffee table and couch. They should add a remote pointer like the Loop pointer from Hillcrest Labs or maybe the Logitech MX-Air that does both.

  8. This move would also make a lot of sense if Apple is making a play for home gaming — the iMac as a gaming console. Apple is already pushing the iPod Touch as a mobile gaming platform. From a home gaming perspective, the powerful computer inside the new 27″ iMac would certainly be appropriate.

  9. james braselton


  10. MarceloR

    To my mind the video input on the iMac is there to make it more palatable to those who would otherwise refrain from buying a computer built in to a screen because upgrading would have meant throwing the whole thing out. The presence of the video input means you may later, at least, use it as a display, better yet, also find another use for the built-in computer as a server. I think Apple’s research may have showed them that a sufficiently large number of people will reason this way to warrant making such a move. I find this a more reasonable explanation than what the article suggests.

  11. Tim Cook also mentioned that next quarter (I believe) will have an abnormal cost of freight.

    That can not be the iTablets, can it? Maybe both iTV and iTablet at MacWorld !?

  12. Richard S

    I have ordered a 27 inch iMac to be my main computer as well as to replace my aging tube TV. I currently use a 12″ PB G4, but I find that it is not quite responsive enough with my growing iPhoto library and video editing needs, so it will become my “netbook” (e-mail, light web-surfing). I already have an EyeTV, and it will be perfect for me to monitor my 10 year old’s activity on the computer, since it will be in the living room. Alfredo hit it on the nose, in my case. I get a reasonably sized HDTV and a decently powered computer, while saving space – very efficient!

  13. BMWTwisty

    I’m glad someone else picked up on theis. When Apple mentioned something specific about being able to use the 27″ iMac to watch movies I thought the wording sounded suspiciously like foreshadowing a “new” APple TV.

  14. What is more natural for a real Apple TV then large 42″, 50″ or more Plasma/LCD/LED screen with build in Blue Ray Player & build in Tuner.
    Just add a keyboard with track ped (You don’t need a mouse in your leaving room) and you got TV the way it should and will be in the next 5 year.

    Give it HDMI input for games too…

    Call it iMac or whatever. It is coming! I’m sure of it.


  15. I sincerely believe we are seeing the first stage of the revolution in the complete cloud home entertainment media center – you can watch TV, videos, play games, web surfing, computing, etc. The hint is the server farm in NC.

    We are really entering into very exciting times – courtesy of our favorite fruit.

  16. Bob Forsberg

    A built in AppleTV/MacMini within large screen (36″-52″) made for Apple LCD is the future for most of us. An iMac or MacPro and a portable MacBook/MacBookPro/large iPodTouch will be the second/third computer in the home/home business.

    The future looks nice…good article, right on the money.

  17. Not bad if it’s more tv, less computer. I still find computing to be a personal thing. I like to surf the internet, listen to music, or whatever else in privacy, not in my living room.

  18. sokratesagogo

    Not necessarily Chris,

    Shelling out for another computer with more oomph in a room in addition to the mini in the living room will start to equalize the costs, not to mention space issues. The kids would also probably thankyou for it too.

  19. I remember back in the day circa 1994 the Gateway Destination was billed as an all in 1 computer TV, media center with a harmond Kardon AV Controller, Surround SOund, the works running windows 98.
    And it came with a huge 37″ tube TV. (It weighed alot) I purchased one and it worked great for about a year, then Windows Rot set in and let me tell you there is NOTHING more frustrating than having to troubleshoot a system like this just to watch TV. The convergence of the 2 medium can only be a success if you can bypass the OS altogether and have an instant on for the display to just give you TV functionality.

  20. Bradley Dichter

    How exactly does this work? Say you have a MiniDisplayPort to HDMI adapter, use it in reverse of it’s former purpose and connect up your blu-ray player or set top box. Then what do you do on the Mac to see this signal? A new option in the Displays System Preference Panel? Picture in Picture would be nice if this was TV or HDTV and you have a 27″ model with more than enough resolution.

  21. I find all of this silly. The imac is waaayyy too much computer for your living room. A mac mini mountable on the back of any HDTV makes sense. An expensive computer on a crappy (in terms of HDTV size, features) screen isn’t going to bridge the living room gap.

    • Alfredo Padilla


      I think I didn’t make this clear enough in the article, but when I mention that the current 27-inch iMac is way more powerful than you need I am agreeing with you that Apple would need to reduce the computing power in order for this to work. But imagine a big display a la the iMac with the guts of a Mac Mini.