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Big Changes Ahead for Apple TV

Apple TV looked about ready for the dustbin in recent years, especially with great free media center PC alternatives available like Boxee and XBMC. And with the recent announcement of Google TV (s goog), it sure looked like Apple’s (s aapl) foray into the dedicated home entertainment industry was pretty much done for. Not so, according to a report by Engadget.

A tipster, whose story has also been confirmed by another source very close to Apple, tells the gadget blog all about the next iteration of the Apple TV. And it’s not what you might expect. Instead of an incremental update (more storage, better output, etc.) the Apple TV will undergo a complete overhaul, and in the end won’t look much like the device people have come to know (and possibly, though not likely, love).

The next iteration of Apple TV will actually build on Apple’s strength as a mobile device company, by being, essentially, a mobile device. If the tipster and the collaborating source are correct, the new device will be based on the iPhone 4, including the A4 CPU and only 16GB of internal storage. It’ll support full HD 1080p output using those guts, though, so don’t get too worried. And it’ll also depend more on the cloud than on local storage for delivering content.

It’s being described as an “iPhone without the screen” and should only have two or three ports (video out and power). And what will you pay for this mighty mini machine? $99. That’s it. If the price point is true, then it’ll definitely give Google a run for its money. Especially if it runs iPhone OS and is as portable as it appears to be. Imagine being able to take all your TV content with you wherever you travel. Quite the proposition.

Despite the move towards streaming and away from local content, you’ll be able to use a Time Capsule as an external storage device, so all those movies and shows you’ve downloaded won’t be for naught. iPhone and iPad app integration is a definite possibility, and one that has my heart racing. Finally I can play Warpgate on a screen where I can actually make out the details of the starships! That’s provided Apple adds support to the iPhone SDK for upscaling, which I hope it will. And Scrabble with iPhones and iPads combined with the Apple TV, anyone?

This is shaping up to be the perfect storm of tech convergence within a company. Throw in some official support for a Boxee app on this device, Apple, and you’ve got a guaranteed customer right here. No word on when it will arrive, but let’s cross our fingers for a WWDC mention or two.

For those interested in cloud computing or data centers, check out our Structure conference in June.

15 Responses to “Big Changes Ahead for Apple TV”

  1. Adding to the speculation. What if the New Apple TV…

    -Runs all iPhone and iPad Apps on the AppStore, plus an specific SDK for Apple TV Apps
    -Integrates iAds
    -Can be controlled with a new iPhone-iPod Touch Remote App, that allows remote Multi-touch controls of the TV screen
    -It includes a Safari browser with HTML5 support
    -Does not support Flash
    -It plays any content from any iTunes library at home
    -The new iPhone HD sells with a dock station to connect to a TV screen and behaves just as the new Apple TV

    Can you imagine all that for $99? Is the ultimate set-top-box finally here? Is GoogleTV dead-on-arrival ? Can you imagine the App Store model also on TV? Netflix, YouTube, all the existing video apps, plus all games, and other apps plus HTML5 online video…

    Will Apple re-invent the TV too, based on the same iPhone OS that reinvented the phone and the tablet?

    1984 might be closer than we ever thought, and the worst thing is that we are loving it.

  2. Devin

    This is something that many have been expecting since the announcement of the iPad and the job posting from Apple for someone to “grow the iphone OS family”. The AppleTV was a great idea, but it’s kind of a bastard OS and it’s limited because of that. Morph iPhone OS into a UI similar to AppleTV will be great, allowing developers to make AppleTV specific apps (obviously ones that are built around simpler navigation).

    The complaints of “only apple supplied content” seem foolish to me – the current AppleTV can use any content you can play with Quicktime, and Quicktime itself offers conversion of most other formats into iDevice friendly formats. Once you have it on your computer, you’ll be able to stream it to AppleTV.

  3. It’s not about “I hope [insert device name here] supports Flash so I can get Hulu”. Hulu content could easily be made available as an app without Flash, or a device could support Flash and Hulu can still block it. The decision belongs to the networks, not Google, Apple, Roku, or any of the several other players already doing this.

    TV based apps should not just throw the website on screen like WebTV did years ago, and I doubt they’ll work by just throwing a mobile Android or iPhone OS app up on the screen either. The TV is its own experience with its own UI profile.

    It’s the CONTENT you want, not the SITES or APPS.


    • Larry

      Yep the decisions belongs to the content provider and NBC and Timewarner just gave Apple the Finger and they are sticking to Flash.

      I see this happening more and more, unless Apple sells 200 million iPad’s in the next 2 years. Even then that is probably less than the number of computers that watch content today using Flash on the major providers.

  4. Chris K

    $99? SEems like it would have to be subsidized if specs are right. Subsidized by an iTunes subscription or something if Apple wants to maintain its usual high margins.

    And its success all depends on the content package they are going to offer.

    Is streaming going to make it so you don’t have to keep track of the shows you purchase? Will they offer a subscription model? Or do they have a deal worked out to stream shows once for a cheap price than you can purchase them? Will they get more content like sporting events?

  5. Amidst the hype of GoogleTV and now AppleTV, there is one thing that no one addresses: managing the home network, distributing content and offering actual broadcast programming in true HD and 5.1 stereo.

    Don’t get me wrong, I am all for disruptive TV, but sometimes, I just want to sit down and watch great shows on HBO with great sound and audio quality – something that I don’t see these platforms offering yet or for a long time.

    Oh – and 3D programming on Google TV or Apple TV? I don’t think so- at least for a while.

    Am I nuts?

  6. …What are we supposed to do with our “old” AppleTVs?. Maybe not, but I thought AppleTV had a better processor than the iPad (or at least), 256 Mb of Ram and the GPU of a complete computer (NVIDIA GeForce Go 7300). Globally is a better machine than iPad and It already has 1080p output (limited by software). I really hope Apple don’t forget “old” AppleTV users… but I’m not sure about that.

  7. Petey

    Sounds great! Who needs Adobe?! Flash caused the phone they tested it on to get so hot after 30 minutes it couldn’t be touched! Inelegant programming from back in the caveman days. The types of video that iPods and iPads support are not destructive and you can watch a full movie without any heat generated at all. This complaining about one antiquated format is getting old. It is the 21st century. Maybe Adobe should hire back some of the engineers they layed off and design some touch GUI elements to their scripting language.

  8. Larry

    “iPhone and iPad app integration is a definite possibility, and one that has my heart racing. Finally I can play Warpgate on a screen where I can actually make out the details of the starships! “

    Are you going to rub your fingers on the TV screen to control it?

    This all sounds good, and like vapor ware right now. Lots of questions come up quick. Like NO FLASH support. I have a Mini connected to my TV for this right now and I can watch TV via web sites and its all Flash…and it works great BTW.

    Access to local content is going to be a must. I fear it will only be able to pull from other Apple devices and not a Windows or Linux share.

    Anyhow this is yet another hint and Apple pushing the Mac to the back burner. iPhone OS on a iPhone type device.