With Apple’s latest “special event” occurring at the Yerba Buena Center in San Francisco tomorrow, speculation has been rife that we will see the re-launch of the AppleTV set-top media player as an iOS4 device, crafted from the same hardware as the iPhone 4 and iPad, and rebranded as “iTV”. The AppleTV has hardly been a rip roaring success since its launch in 2007, but the top brass at Cupertino appear to believe that a combination of access to the App Store and a new sub-$100 pricetag could change all that.
As always with a new Apple product launch, we wait with baited breath to see what features will be included, so to pass the time we’ve come up with six things we’d like to see packed into the new iTV.
The rumors doing the rounds suggest that, like the iPhone 4 and iPad, and indeed the iTunes Store at the moment, the iTV will not be able to output full 1080p HD video. If true, it would appear to be an almost wilfully contrary move, especially in 2010, when there are plenty of cheap media players already on the market capable of handling this resolution. It would also leave the lingering suspicion that Apple didn’t see fit to include an HDMI out on the iPad purely so as not to cannabilize sales for this upcoming product.
Related to this point, of course we’d like to see wider codec support, but know it’s never going to happen. However, access to the App Store may quickly solve this issue, as CineXPlayer has on the iPhone and iPad.
And we don’t mean from your local Mac or PC. No, we want the same standard of instant-on movie streaming from the Internet for iTunes rentals that Xbox Live users currently enjoy on their hardware. No waiting around for downloads – let us watch it when we want it. Of course, that might be what Apple’s giant new server farm in North Carolina is for.
The present pricing scheme on iTunes for TV shows makes using it to catch up on entire seasons of current and varied content an activity reserved for those who like to light their cigars with $100 bills. Apple need to thrash out a more sensible system with the networks to make iTV our first port of call for on-demand television.
With no touchscreen, the iTV is going to need a new method of control, and while there will undoubtedly be remote functionality released for the iPhone and iPad, here is where we’d like to see Apple’s renowned design chops really go to town. No more remotes that resemble something from Cape Canaveral please. Perhaps the Magic Trackpad is an indication of where the future of remote control could lay. Of course, an innovative controller would tie into our next point …
Apple really missed a trick with the original AppleTV by not making it a gaming platform. A games console that also acted as a gateway to the iTunes ecosphere? A far easier sell to the public. Instead, Apple left the way open to Nintendo to clean up this console generation with the Wii, a product that screams “Apple!” from its control method, its marketing and even its onscreen typeface.
Of course, Apple didn’t “get” gaming then. They certainly do now, since the explosion of portable gaming on the iOS devices. With Wii and DS sales stagnating, a gaming-enabled sub-$100 device, with all the benefits the App Store provides, could see Apple hoover up the new “casual” market that the Wii unlocked. It could also blow the wind out of Sony and Microsoft’s sails right before the releases of their respective attempts to appeal to this new audience, the PS3 Move and Xbox 360 Kinect controllers.
No, it’s not essential. It probably wouldn’t even get used that often. But it would be utterly cool to be able to video-call distant friends and family and see them on the big screen. Inbuilt webcam it is then, please Apple.
So these are six of the things we would like to see included in the rumored iTV. Some of them we’re likely to get – movie streaming and gaming seem like utter no-brainers – some we probably won’t, but we can live in hope. No matter what Apple does see fit to incorporate in the iTV, you can be sure we’ll be here with the best tips and tricks for making the most out of this latest addition to the Apple family.
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