This weekend, the tech blogs were flooded with rumors of a new incarnation for AppleTV. The news were "confident" that we will see a device which is:
- Based on iPhone OS 4 (the current device is based on a trimmed down version of OS X): it's like an iPhone in a small box with no screen that can pump out 1080p through HDMI.
- Instant on, like the iPhone/iPad.
- Based on a cloud service and very light on internal memory: enter iTunes.com.
- Can be connected to a Time Capsule for more storage.
- Rally cheap at $99.
It can be an Awesome Gaming Console
It is no coincidence that this comes a week after the GoogleTV announcement. This makes the rumors much more substantial. Probably deliberate. Expect a lot more rumors to culminate in the upcoming months. The rumors claim that it will not be revealed in the upcoming WWDC (next week), which makes it even more credible: Apple wouldn't have to leak this information if it was ready for official unveiling.
How do you control the device? Controlling the iPhone with a simple remote seems control would not work. We will probably be getting a Wiimote like device that translate movements to screen gestures (as described here and here). We could see something more advanced like the Playstation Move or even Microsoft's Natal project. It will probably support a bluetooth keyboard as well like the iPad.
It is an Apple Gaming Console! There are so many games in the Apple Store. You could be running them on your TV. True, you won't be getting games with realistic 3D graphics, nevertheless, it is fun, cheap and ready to roll when you are. Sometimes I sit in my living room and play with my iPhone and not my PS3 because I'm too impatient to wait for it to boot and load a game. It will not be Apples' first console.
HD television at 1080p has a resolution of 1920×1080, which is much more than the iPad 1024×768. It will probably be the same transition as it was (still is) from the iPhone to the iPad. Eventually you will see native applications in full HD resolution. This means the current "HD" naming convention in the App Store should stop and wait for the new device. iPad apps should probably be "XL", and TV apps "HD".
A movement sensing controller needs a dedicated sensor or a camera. A camera also opens other options like having a chat running the living room. However, the rumors did not suggest there will be a camera or even a camera port. The patent linked above does not suggest there will be a camera used. It is more likely that we will see a dedicated sensor (like Wii or Natal, unlike PS3 Move).
Another option for control could be through a paired iPad/iPhone/iPod touch, although I find it hard to believe that this will be the only control option.
The connection to the Time Capsule raises some interesting questions. Does this means enabling simple file sharing? Will it support other devices? Currently, Time Capsule does not support UPnp or DLNA protocols for media streaming. This could be added to the Time Capsule using a firmware update. Personally, I would appreciate UPnp in the Time Capsule, which should've been there in the first place (my opinion on the Time Capsule is a subject for a separate post).
The question of UPnp and DLNA is interesting. Having such support means you will be able to serve any content from your PC (or many other compatible devices) to your television. Basically it means you are free to stream any content to your TV. It means you won't have to pay for iTunes.com: simply set up your own streaming server on your home PC that doesn't have to physically be in the living room. There are already apps that support these protocols in the Apple Store. It won't be a surprise to see Apple change its' policy to ban such applications.
The End of the Desktop OS?
There's a wider question here, which I should probably be addressing in a separate post. It is clear that the iPhone OS and the "walled garden" approach is working nicely for Apple. It also feels that Apple reached a certain peek with Mac OS X. There are very few rumors on the next iteration of OS X.
It is ironic: the biggest threat on the Mac OS X is not Windows. In fact, the ill-executed Windows Vista contributed a lot to the Mac market share growth. It is the iPhone OS.
It is like driving: in order to drive, you need to understand how to work a steering wheel and the gas pedals. You don't need to understand how to service the engine, install new exhaust system or even change oil. In the near future, we will all be using run-flat tires so you won't even have to understand how to change tires. Sure, there is a specific modders and tuners crowd, people that really like fiddling around and tweaking the machine. But they are a minority. Most of us would simply like the car to do what it was meant to do without interfering us with mundane activities.
The same thing is happening to computing: the average user will need to understand how to work a word processor but not much else. Even the concept of file system is outdated. The common user should not deal with drivers, anti virus programs, firewall settings or video properties. Everything should just work. That's where we are heading. You may not like this, being the uber-geek that you are, but your mom will appreciate it.