The Next Apple TV? Drawing Inspiration From the iPad

Steve Jobs calls the iPad Apple’s (s aapl) “most advanced technology in a magical and revolutionary device” and I’m certainly not one to disagree. The iPad boasts significant advances over the iPhone in terms of hardware and software which makes me wonder, how much of that advanced technology could make it’s way into a future Apple TV?


While the current Apple TV boasts an Intel (s intc) Pentium M 1.0GHz processor, Apple’s advances in its own chip design could pave the way for a custom processor fine tuned for the device. Apple’s reason for custom chips in the mobile arena is to provide them with what they need while giving them more control over other aspects, such as battery life. While this isn’t a concern with the Apple TV, certainly a more powerful chip while still being power efficient is desirable. A custom chip would give Apple more flexibility over performance as well. Consider the video formats the iPad can play. Many were shocked to see support for full 720p at 30 frames per second and support for .avi files up to 35Mbps. In terms of processing power, that’s more advanced than the Apple TV, and its a mobile device!
The iPad also brings support for an external keyboard through Bluetooth. That’s right. You can use your plain off the shelf Apple Wireless Keyboard with your iPad. Why not bring this same bluetooth functionality to the Apple TV? This could allow support for a wireless keyboard or any host of other Bluetooth-enabled devices. (What other devices might one use? Read on, my friend.)


While the current Apple TV software runs on a modified version of the Mac operating system, there’s really no benefit provided from this approach versus an iPhone-like OS. Consider the similarities already between the two: only one “application” can run at a time and the official method of pushing content to both devices is either through the Internet or iTunes.
Another arena that Apple could pursue is to finally offer an App Store for the device. Now that the waters have been tested with the iPhone and iPod touch, an Apple TV App Store makes sense. Considering that the device has been hacked numerous times and there are many unsupported applications that can be run on the device, an official App Store would give the device more expandability and return a portion of the profit back to Apple. Since the App Store model allows the developer to reap profits from the app too, perhaps this will finally pave the way to bring Hulu into the living room via the Apple TV. If Hulu and Netflix both offered apps for the Apple TV, imagine how many of these devices Apple could move off the shelves? Game developers could build their own applications and provide interaction using an iPhone or iPad as a controller (gaining accelerometer functionality) or through their own Bluetooth-enabled peripherals.
The Apple TV is a product that has seen few updates and is referred to by Apple as a “hobby.” But what are hobbies really? It’s something done for pleasure and for leisure. Something that you work on slowly over time, but stay the course. Apple has reaffirmed their commitment to investing in the device but much like the iPhone and the iPad, it isn’t going to be a runaway success if its not the right product at the right time. The iPad will be wildly popular because of the success of the iPhone, which owes its own success to the accomplishments of the iPod. Apple has carefully built an entire ecosystem around iTunes and its devices. With the Apple TV, the best is yet to come.
Related Research from GigaOM Pro: