App(le) TV?

By  |  Friday, May 28, 2010 at 10:33 am

Over at Engadget, Josh Topolosky has written about a tip his site received about the next Apple TV–which supposedly is essentially a $99 screenless, diskless iPhone which streams 1080p content from the Internet or a Time Capsule network drive. It would presumably tie into a service along the lines of the one described in a musty old rumor known as iTunes Replay. And it would clearly compete with existing boxes such as Roku and future ones based on Google TV.

(One major Google TV selling point which Apple TV definitely won’t match, at least in our lifetime: Google’s gizmo will play all the Flash-based video on the Web.)

Josh’s tipster didn’t say anything about whether the next-generation Apple TV would run apps. But if it runs iPhone OS, it feels kind of inevitable that it would–if not at first, at least eventually. Stock iPhone and iPad apps would make no sense at all on an HDTV screen, but ones scaled to the right size and aspect ratio might. Netflix, for instance, could create something akin to the Netflix interface on Roku. And games would be a no-brainer.

It’s still not obvious that many folks want to run apps other than games on a TV set. Yahoo’s Connected TV platform has let you do that for awhile now on sets from multiple manufacturers, and although it’s well-done it doesn’t seem to have set off a living-room revolution just yet. But I’m even more cautious about one of the big ideas behind last week’s Google TV announcement: that consumers hunger for full-blown access to the Web on their TVs. I’ve sat through innumerable press events over the past fifteen years or so listening to tech execs who were confident that real people wanted to browse on a TV. Those real people, however, have always seemed to be in short supply.

Given how long we’ve all been online, most living rooms remain surprisingly short on Internet technology. I’m still not sure if there’s an iPod-like transformative device out there waiting to be invented by Apple or anybody else, but if both Google and Apple give it all they’ve got it’ll be fun to watch, if nothing else.


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6 Comments For This Post

  1. Chip Says:

    I think that if there was a way to mirror your iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad on an HDTV, this would be a big hit.

    I’m waiting for a developer to come up with a program that would use the iPhone or iPod touch (with camera) as a sensor device to pair up with an iPad to create a Natal- or Wii-type experience.

  2. Simon Says:

    I’d like to see the Apple TV opened up to apps from other video services- Amazon, Netflix, Vudu etc. If Apple build a $99 device that’s not going to happen, the business model has to be one of loss (or at least no profit) leader.

    I’d also like Blu-ray on an Apple TV. And a pony. And some strawberry ice cream.

  3. Hamranhansenhansen Says:

    Google TV can’t play Hulu. What else is there? I haven’t hit a single video I can’t play on iPad. Except Hulu, who specifically want to show only on Mac/PC because they are taking an anti-convergence stand.

    I even went to MSNBC’s Countdown looking for something I couldn’t play because it’s Flash-heavy and was met with a gorgeous HTML5 version. The videos start faster, play smoother, and you pinch to go full screen. Plus the menu uses native scrolling, it’s faster and works like you’d expect, not differently as in Flash.

    As for apps, nobody wanted to run apps on their phone before iPhone. The key is you have to have powerful native C apps that do more than the Web (unique to iPhone OS among mobiles) and a great interface that doesn’t make it a chore (we’ll see what Apple comes up with).

  4. Tom B Says:

    “Except Hulu, who specifically want to show only on Mac/PC because they are taking an anti-convergence stand.”

    Maybe someone will write a “handbrake”-like converter for HULU.

  5. Mark Says:

    For $99.00 the “new” Apple TV is compelling, and the possibility of running apps on it makes it even more so. I think ultimately it’s going to fail though because the set top box of the future needs to play the content ALL READY on my PC’s HDD, as well as offering streaming/VOD services.

    I’m anxiously waiting for the Boxee Box to come out, just for this reason. It will play all the media files currently on my PC (the non-DRM’s ones anyway) as well as offering web streaming content, and the VOD services from NetFlix, Amazon, etc.

  6. Tom Ross Says:

    I find it hard to believe that Apple would be able to sell iPod-Touch-like hardware for $99, at least this year. $149 or $179, maybe.

    Then again, what’s so ultimately tempting about this one that Apple TV hasn’t had before? It’s still not a DVD player, BluRay player or DVR, and I remember that those were the features most people missed in the Apple TV. It’s still a video streaming box, a category of devices that is small and has been growing slowly over the last years. Small market = higher price, like $199.

    And if you want apps (besides Hulu, which would be blocked anyway), you’re thinking of games. Games need better hardware and special controllers. That would necessarily jack the price even higher, and drag Apple into a market that is heavily distorted by Sony’s and Microsoft’s reckless spending.

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