What is going to happen around Apple TV?

by Volker Weber


I had an interesting discussion about Apple TV and the Mac mini last week. Consensus:

  1. Apple wants to be in the living room.
  2. If an Apple product has not been updated for a long time, it's either going away or something big is about to happen.

Given (1) my bet is on something big. First rumors are coming in that the company is removing Apple TV from the channel.


I hope you're right. My predictions are almost always wrong, but a few years ago I told my wife that Apple belongs in the consumer electronics business (aka the living room). The Apple TV didn't/doesn't do enough for me to buy one, but I reserved a spot for one anyway when I was designing my new entertainment center because I *want* Apple in my living room.

Rob McDonagh, 2008-09-27

I wrote about this some when we heard iTunes 8 was coming out - I was hoping the September announcement was going to include some thing "media center" related, not just iPods.

Kevan Emmott, 2008-09-28

They need to have a product that connects clean to iTunes, which they have. They need to have a product which can be user-modified without requiring wizardry in Unix, which they do not have. If you look at the homebrew and hack efforts surrounding the AppleTV thus far, here's what such a product should be:

1. Open architecture, so users can upgrade drives, attach external storage, and improve the breed.
2. Ability to act as a general-purpose computer
3. Ability to act as a DVR (what everyone thought aTV should have been, and it ain't)
4. Ability to stream to iPhone, iPod Touch, and your other Apple machines, including secure streaming to your authorized device across the internet a la SlingBox or even (garf) Sony.

Mac Mini couldn't do it, aTV can't do it, but if they just put in a little effort, and priced it at $500 or less, they could own the living room outright. MS Media PCs haven't exactly broken open the market.

I do adore my original AppleTV, though, in part because necessity made me hack the living crud out of it. It now sports a 160GB drive and a bunch of add-ons so I can watch pretty much anything I can throw at it. But only on my local network...

Scott Wenzel (The Turtle), 2008-09-28

Scott, all interesting stuff for the power user, especially #1. But your description does not look like an Apple product for the masses.

Volker Weber, 2008-09-28

My bet would be on a *real* Apple TV, i.e. a 40+" LCD Screen with built-in Wireless, Disk and iTunes.

Frank Koehntopp, 2008-09-28

It would be good enough for me if they scrape Apple TV and update their Mac mini instead (a HDMI outlet would be nice), which is long overdue also. And on a Mac mini you can add some of the missing functionality yourself.

Mariano Kamp, 2008-09-28

Frank, not impossible, but not very likely. Too many TV standards, too many tuners.

Volker Weber, 2008-09-28

Silly local consumer perspective...
New Apple store just opened in Ireland (the first one). I bought an Apple TV on the day it opened. Specifically asked the sales guy if there was a refresh or new product coming in October. They did not think so but will take my ATV back and refund/swap if one does appear.
Lets see what happens.

Paul Mooney, 2008-09-28

@Paul and they gave it to you in writing, right?

Gregory Engels, 2008-09-28

Even though I usually jump on a bandwagon pretty quickly, I made myself wait buying an AppleTV until
- it would contain a blu-ray player
- I could buy/rent movies here in Belgium too
- I could use it as a PVR
- I can play back-up DVDs / ISO
Let's hope it was worth waiting ;-)

Theo Heselmans, 2008-09-28

Paul - you have to return your apple product within 14 days to get the refund...

I hope that Apple buy Tivo. Tivo has the easiest interface around, and beats Sky+ (the local incumbent). In terms of tuners, there's a few digital TV USB interfaces, and they'd need a cable and satellite TV one, but I think its doable.

Ironically, only the very first version of Tivo was available here in the UK. I got a second-hand one for ¢200, and ran it for six years, and sold it off recently for - ¢200. So there's still an active market.

Couple that DVR functionality with a 160gb hard drive, existing apple TV functionality and perhaps an on-line web-based 'please record this program' and it'd beat the market.

---* Bill

Bill Buchan, 2008-09-28

Oh. Currently. I'm using a Mac Mini, Media Central, iTunes and a USB Digital TV tuner (tubestick). The big issue is getting PVR software that gets channel listing and being able to do series-link, etc. (Tubestick doesnt cut it). In other words, something close to Tivo.

Any suggestions?

---* Bill

Bill Buchan, 2008-09-28

Volker, I loved your short story in the c't about your move from Windows to Mac soem years ago. You should post it here as well, if possible - maybe even translate it. Just wanted to say thanks.

Martin Hiegl, 2008-09-28

@Bill - it won't be a refund I am after. I discussed this with the seller in the store about all the Mac products asking about the refresh in the coming weeks. They were aware of the store opening date being a possible issue and were prepared to deal with it on October 14th.

That being said, the rumour mill is growing on many sites about the refresh or withdrawl of the Apple TV for new product. I will be contacting the store tomorrow to remind them of the discussion I had with the seller.

I like my apple tv. I dont want it to be out of date though after 3 weeks.

Paul Mooney, 2008-09-28

Martin, I like to keep this separated, and encourage everyone to buy a copy of c't.

Paul, I tried to tell you to hold of purchases until end of October. :-) And before anybody makes a mistake: now is a bad time to buy a notebook.

Volker Weber, 2008-09-28

Postponing a MBP purchase until end of october will only make it probable to get hold of the first revision of a brand new hardware-design.
To avoid troublesome bugs, s.o. should wait at least until 2009 then.

Roland Leißl, 2008-09-28

The missing piece of the puzzle is gaming. Apple seem to be making a play for this market with the latest iPhone / iPod functionality, combined with iTunes and the App Store. So it wouldn’t surprise me to see some kind of consumer doo-dad that plays nice with your telly and iTunes, but also does the gaming thing.

Now, games on the iPhone have led to many comparing the handset unfavourably with the DS and PSP. But those people miss the point: Apple rarely go for the “best of breed” approach on these things, they just try to make stuff that appeals. And they’re not alone in this. Look at the capabilities of the Wii versus the PS3 or XBox—Nintendo still seem to have done quite well with their console ;o)

Whatever happens though, the key thing is to expect the unexpected.

Helpful eh? ;o)

Ben Poole, 2008-09-29

I fear the new device will be as closed as the AppleTV is now.
Don't get me wrong. I love the good interaction with itunes. But I also like to play .mkv-Files on my AppleTV or any other original not supported videos.
Jailbreaking AppleTV is a pain in the arse. Once it is done it rewards you with all the possibilities you expect from such kind of Set-Top-Box. Ok 'til 2.1 you had the problem with files larger than 4GB and based on its hardware you can't play HDTV in 1080p/i.
Apple wants to rent out videos via ITMS and sell series. So you won't see a BlueRay in the new device neither you won't be able to play other formats than Flash videos DivX and H264/AAC in .mp4 containers.
I hope I'm wrong but the iPhone and Apples holier-than-thou game with programms for the AppStore don't inspire much confidence.

Dirk Hartmann, 2008-09-30

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