Report: Apple is Revamping Apple TV

| Analysis

Apple TV?Apple’s “hobby,” the Apple TV, is in store for some changes, and possibly some big changes. Unnamed sources told The New York Times that the company is working on new interface for the set-top box, as well as other changes.

The report makes it clear that The Times’ sources are adamant that a major change in the Apple TV is in the works, but the details and specifics of that change seem to be anyone’s guess. That said, the nature of the information suggests this may be one of Apple’s “controlled leaks,” as explained by our own John Martellaro earlier this year.

One of those unclear items is whether or not the new Apple TV will run on iOS or Mac OS X. Another is whether or not a new interface will come with a new hardware design and/or form factor.

However, the newspaper cited a former Apple employee who said that “some of the more advanced work” being done on the Apple TV was being handled outside the Apple TV group itself, but rather by another, unspecified design group at Apple. His (or her) interpretation was that this could signify an entirely new product being introduced as the Apple TV.

Another source said that Apple has been hiring user interface engineers and designers with experience in the broadcast TV market. Hopefully that means TiVo, as the reality is that it’s the horrid interface of every other single settop box on the planet that makes many Apple fans yearn for a more capable Apple-branded device to replace their cable boxes and DVRs.

Apple has long been rumored to be interested in delivering more TV services through iTunes, with one rumor in 2009 saying that Apple was working on a TV subscription service that could effectively replace cable TV in some homes. At the same time, it is mostly a given that Apple is working to turn iTunes media storage and playback into a cloud-based service that would be accessible across all of your Apple products. (BoyGeniusReports fed fuel to this rumor on Thursday).

Whether or not these various services are tied to The Times’s leak of a new Apple TV remains to be seen, but there is certainly a convergence line to be seen in these rumors and leaks. Don’t forget, too, that Apple CEO Steve Jobs is reportedly attending this year’s Sun Valley media retreat, an event attended by technology and media moguls (and politicians and sometimes LeBron James), this summer. That also fits nicely into this new round of Apple gossip.

Comments

Lee Dronick

Cloud based service? I keep wondering about the server farm that Apple is building in North Carolina.

popbunka

I have the most recent Apple TV and find it a little underwhelming. It seems they could have given the software more functionality if they wanted to… at the least support video mirroring from an iMac or notebook or something. How hard would that have been?

Tardis

Hello?

“run on iOS or Mac OS X”?

“user interface engineers and designers”?

iOS actually IS Mac OS X, with a phone interface. Macs run OS X with two different interfaces, the Mac desktop and “Front Row”, which is the “home media” interface. Users can switch between them.

The current Apple TV uses an interface very similar to Front Row. Because it’s a media interface. It doesn’t use the full Mac desktop interface because it isn’t a desktop PC and it doesn’t use the iPhone interface because it isn’t a phone.

No doubt the next Apple TV will have much more functionality than the current version. Games, perhaps? TiVo - NOT - TiVo is a US-only product, Apple only does world products.

Cloud-based, iTunes based? certainly .....

Bryan Chaffin

Tardis, while iOS and Mac OS X share the sam core underpinnings and are kept in sync by Apple, it’s become clear that they have a very different set of capabilities.  It might be more correct to say that they share a different set of things that Apple will allow users to do with each OS.

With Mac OS X, users can pretty much do what they want. With iOS, multitasking is (now) tightly controlled, what apps you an install is tightly controlled, one’s access to the file system is nonexistent, etc.

Accordingly, which OS Apple chooses to run a future Apple TV will have an impact on how the device behaves.

Artevolve

I emailed steve jobs late last year, asked him if apple would conside rselling appletv as software so that it could be applied across most apple products but particularly mac mini. I also mentioned that this would be a better commercial model than the hardware based version since it would cost less and be more profitable - mac users would then purchase as they do iLife or iWork. I never actually got a reply, I geuss steve was out of town, or was gobsmacked by the wisdom of my foresight. Don’t be surprised if I’m right - I speculated early last year that the mac mini could be the Trojan horse that sneaks apple into the living room and into EVERYBODYS lives.

Tardis

Bryan,

Can we start by agreeing that what you describe as “core underpinnings” is the same thing as what I meant by “Mac OS X”? If so, then what I described as “interface” is what you mean by “which OS Apple chooses to run a future Apple TV will have an impact on how the device behaves”.

Now go back to the Mac. It has two such “interfaces”, one is the traditional PC desktop model, the other is a tailored set of what you can do with this desktop PC that is appropriate for a media display, known as Front Row. I can use my Mac for playing DVD’s or 3D CAD modeling. Switch to Front Row and you can play DVD’s in a simplified but more elegant environment, but you can’t do CAD.

Front Row was Apple’s first “alternative interface”, introduced in 2005. 2 years later, Apple TV was the first device running Mac OS X that did not display the conventional Mac desktop but only worked through a version of Front Row. Shortly after that, the iPhone came out, with its own “alternative interface”, tailored to the demands of a mobile phone. That led to games which were never part of Front Row.

Now we have the iPad, which extends the iPhone interface to productivity apps such as MS Office equivalents, and for some users (those that don’t work with CAD, for example) could replace their netbook or laptop.

Meanwhile, the HDMI port is bringing the Mac Mini closer to Apple TV territory. It runs both the traditional Mac desktop and Front Row. There are various possibilities that Apple could follow in extending the Apple TV model range, one of which would be a lower-cost version of the Mac Mini, say with no hard drive, no optical drive and an A4 chip. Given the sophistication of the Mac Mini’s enclosure, this would never be a $100 device. Another would be a “home server” for media and iPhone backup but without the X-Serve capabilities.

The alternative, a shot at the $100 target, would be a headless iPad with only power and HDMI connections. I have no idea whether Apple will produce any of these, but I am fairly certain that Apple will not be going into the business of making its own TV’s.

Whichever way Apple does this, one thing is almost certain: your iPhone and iPad GAME apps will work on your home HDTV, sometimes in ways that no-one, not even Apple, has even imagined.

Harry Law

Apple TV kicks butt NOW with ATV Flash. I have my music (50GB) pulled off one hard drive and my movies pulled off a 2TB drive on the network. My Apple TV acts more as a hub and not a storage area. Works like a champ with access to 800 movies and 10,000 songs on tap for my TV. Now, with a cloud system is just stupid and under THEIR control not to mention if IP start charging more for bandwidth -forget that. IMHO Apple TV (with ATV Flash) is what you better get now.

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