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The Next Apple TV? Drawing Inspiration From the iPad

Steve Jobs calls the iPad Apple’s (s aapl) “most advanced technology in a magical and revolutionary device” and I’m certainly not one to disagree. The iPad boasts significant advances over the iPhone in terms of hardware and software which makes me wonder, how much of that advanced technology could make it’s way into a future Apple TV?


While the current Apple TV boasts an Intel (s intc) Pentium M 1.0GHz processor, Apple’s advances in its own chip design could pave the way for a custom processor fine tuned for the device. Apple’s reason for custom chips in the mobile arena is to provide them with what they need while giving them more control over other aspects, such as battery life. While this isn’t a concern with the Apple TV, certainly a more powerful chip while still being power efficient is desirable. A custom chip would give Apple more flexibility over performance as well. Consider the video formats the iPad can play. Many were shocked to see support for full 720p at 30 frames per second and support for .avi files up to 35Mbps. In terms of processing power, that’s more advanced than the Apple TV, and its a mobile device!

The iPad also brings support for an external keyboard through Bluetooth. That’s right. You can use your plain off the shelf Apple Wireless Keyboard with your iPad. Why not bring this same bluetooth functionality to the Apple TV? This could allow support for a wireless keyboard or any host of other Bluetooth-enabled devices. (What other devices might one use? Read on, my friend.)


While the current Apple TV software runs on a modified version of the Mac operating system, there’s really no benefit provided from this approach versus an iPhone-like OS. Consider the similarities already between the two: only one “application” can run at a time and the official method of pushing content to both devices is either through the Internet or iTunes.

Another arena that Apple could pursue is to finally offer an App Store for the device. Now that the waters have been tested with the iPhone and iPod touch, an Apple TV App Store makes sense. Considering that the device has been hacked numerous times and there are many unsupported applications that can be run on the device, an official App Store would give the device more expandability and return a portion of the profit back to Apple. Since the App Store model allows the developer to reap profits from the app too, perhaps this will finally pave the way to bring Hulu into the living room via the Apple TV. If Hulu and Netflix both offered apps for the Apple TV, imagine how many of these devices Apple could move off the shelves? Game developers could build their own applications and provide interaction using an iPhone or iPad as a controller (gaining accelerometer functionality) or through their own Bluetooth-enabled peripherals.

The Apple TV is a product that has seen few updates and is referred to by Apple as a “hobby.” But what are hobbies really? It’s something done for pleasure and for leisure. Something that you work on slowly over time, but stay the course. Apple has reaffirmed their commitment to investing in the device but much like the iPhone and the iPad, it isn’t going to be a runaway success if its not the right product at the right time. The iPad will be wildly popular because of the success of the iPhone, which owes its own success to the accomplishments of the iPod. Apple has carefully built an entire ecosystem around iTunes and its devices. With the Apple TV, the best is yet to come.

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18 Responses to “The Next Apple TV? Drawing Inspiration From the iPad”

  1. I think we won’t see much more investment in the apple TV device until content providers start providing more content. If Apple can get a few more people foaming for digital content with the iPad, then perhaps this will show content providers that a viable market for digital VIDEO content exists.

    Right now they apparently see digital consumers as rats in the basement that don’t mind if a few crumbs fall through the cracks of the floor boards… when really we are potatoes on the sofa that are sick of driving to the video store! haha!

  2. I was an early adopter and still am satisfied with V1.0 for the manner in which I use it, e.g., our household has a dozen programs/week we watch regularly – downloaded to the iMac in the study and loaded from there to the AppleTV.

    They’re deleted from the AppleTV after watching; so, even the dinky oem HD is sufficient.

    720p was adequate until the living room TV got bigger and 1080p-capable. 1080i is noticeably better than 720p in the content we usually watch via DirecTV and our DVR. But, now that I’ve added that DVR to our wireless network, I can download the occasional 1080p movie – which has enabled dropping the several movie channels I subscribed to.

    The cost of those subscriptions vs. the number of films watched vs. the cost of On Demand downloads made that an easy decision.

    Still – if there was an updated AppleTV – 1080p ready – I’d get one.

  3. I dont understand why anyone who owns and AppleTV doesn’t grasp the very basic concept that there isn’t one SINGLE third party app that any of us write that Apple would EVER allow on the AppleTV. This would force all of us into the fringe like Cydia is on the iPhone. It wouldn’t help us developers or the end-users in any way. Nor would an SDK, you see the unreasonable 8 gazillion page PDF of limitations on the iPad/iPhone? You don’t think they would do the EXACT SAME THING on the AppleTV?

  4. Elevatus

    I just hope they update the Apple TV interface asap. It is just like the iPod…therefore it doesn’t take advantage of the extra zillions of extra pixels of usable real estate.

  5. I doubt Apple would allow apps like Sapphire or SABnzbd in the app store. A beefier processor with a bit more memory would be nice. If they go iPhone OS, the device will be hacked anyways to put the more useful apps that Apple wouldn’t allow in their store.

  6. Problem is that hulu would then be competing with Apple’s own itunes store for content, and I doubt Apple would approve. Id certainly buy one if this idea came through though, and the Apple TV became a media centre rather than a movie hard drive

    • Charles

      I don’t understand why people would want an HDMI port on the iPad. Any video that is on your iPad is also on your computer, which means it is on your AppleTV as well. I’d much rather my AppleTV stream video from my computer, and use the remote app on the iPad to control the AppleTV.

    • @Charles, it might be helpful when say you take a holiday movie over to a friends house and can watch it there? But its not a very elegant solution, having your big TV with an iPad dangling from an HDMI cable next to it…

  7. not so skeptical

    Great blog. I could see the AppleTV making some headway in the home entertainment market by opening it up to Applications, like pandora, netflix and hulu, although, I can’t see appletv competing with xbox 360, nintento wii or sony ps3 in the console wars.

    • well, some of the apps such as the calendar, itunes, and email have been given a bit of an overhaul, the performance that comes to the iPod app when watching HD movies etc can be attributed to the software as well as hardware, and access for peripherals like the bluetooth keyboard, which you cant do with the iPhone, is another