Apple could be preparing a new version of its digital-content-streaming Apple TV that runs iPhone OS 4 on an A4 processor and costs $99. That would be a radical departure from the current model, which costs $229 and offers 160GB of storage. Although an Apple exec has described Apple TV as a hobby for the company, the upcoming release of Google TV, which delivers Web content to televisions, has the potential to turn the Web TV arena into a more vigorous battleground.
The upcoming version of Apple TV will run iPhone OS 4 and cost $99, according to rumors reported by technology blog Engadget, which also stated that the set-top box will use a proprietary A4 processor to stream digital content to high-definition televisions. The rumors did not offer a definite release date.
Editor Joshua Topolsky claimed in a May 28 post on Engadget
that a source "very close to Apple" had confirmed those rumors. Topolsky said the device will feature 16GB of flash storage and "be capable of full 1080p HD."
If all this is true, the next version of the Apple TV would represent something of a radical departure from the current version, which offers 160GB of storage and costs $229. Presumably, the next-generation device would adhere to the same content-delivery model as the old one, which relies on iTunes for HD movies, TV shows and music. Apple TV can also display YouTube videos and images from iPhoto and Flickr.
For the iPhone, iPhone OS 4 includes features such as multitasking and iAd, an advertising platform for mobile applications. If iPhone OS 4 also ends up being used in the new Apple TV, the question is what sort of additional features will be available as a result.
While a new version of Apple TV would likely have been under development for a while, the timing of the rumors will force inevitable comparisons between Apple's potential product and the newly announced Google TV.
Announced May 20 at Google I/O, Google TV will funnel search, video, Twitter and a variety of Web applications through a set-top box. The service will use a version of the Google Chrome Web browser, bringing Web searching as a feature, and will supposedly include both Google applications and Google ads-although the search giant has yet to announce any related advertising plans. Early partners in the endeavor are Intel and Sony.
Google TV will also reportedly support Adobe Flash 10.1, opening up a variety of rich Web content from services such as Hulu. Users will be able to navigate via a special remote control from Logitech or an Android 2.1 or higher smartphone.
At first glance, Google's push into the space seems much more aggressive than Apple's, as Apple TV can be seen primarily as a way to put iTunes and other content on a screen other than a PC. Apple Chief Operating Officer Tim Cook has previously referred to Apple TV as "a hobby" for the company compared with its endeavors in PCs and smartphones.
But a more robust Apple TV, along with Google TV, could herald the creation of a new market segment-not to mention another battleground for the two companies.
"There's no way anyone can prevent this from being deployed," Gartner analyst Van Baker told eWEEK, referring to Google TV,
"because even if service providers like Comcast or DirectTV don't like the idea, there's nothing they can do about it ... the software takes the HDMI out of the feed from the set-top box and 'Androids' it into this bigger environment and presents that to the consumer."
That would not, however, prevent those service providers from charging an extra fee for users of Google TV.