Perhaps you were disappointed with the new look Apple TV when it was introduced one month ago; perhaps you expected more from Steve Jobs' hobby; perhaps you think it seems a little puny in comparison to the Google TV solutions we're hearing so much more about this week. Look a little deeper though and it seems pretty clear Apple's quietly putting together the pieces it needs to outmaneuver its Android enemy. Here's five clues:
1/ Apple TV can run apps
We're definite on this now. Not only has the new product already been jailbroken in order that it can run independently-produced software from jailbreaker developers, but it's possible to install iOS apps on the device -- no jailbreak required.
Developer Steven Troughton-Smith has discovered that apps can be installed, it isn't possible to run them on an Apple TV just yet, as the operating system inside doesn't yet offer a launcher to enable apps to run.
Could this debut in a future software update? I don't know for sure, but it seems an obvious strategy.
Apple CEO Steve Jobs has hinted that an App Store for the Apple TV could appear one day, as Business Week puts it: What Jobs didn't say is that Apple wants to become king of the living room. He tells Bloomberg Businessweek that when the time is right, Apple could open an App Store for the TV that could do for television sets what all those apps have done for the iPhone.
Google TV already offers several integrated apps and the promise of support for many Android early next year.
2/ TV isn't TV anymore
Steve Jobs is honest. He just isn't always easy to understand. Recall when he said he didn't think people really wanted to watch TV on a small iPod screen? Or when he said he wasn't sure of the eBook business? Or when he revealed that Mac OS X ran on Intel machines for five years before the Intel switch was revealed. What was his throwaway comment on television following launch of the new Apple TV?
He told BusinessWeek: "Asked if the iPad could evolve into the TV of tomorrow, Jobs shrugs and says, "That's how I do most of my TV watching today."
Now imagine for a moment that Jobs is using an iPad that's perhaps a little more beta than anybody else. Imagine for example he's actually streaming TV of various kinds to his television from his iPad.
3/ When video out goes wireless
AirPlay is great. When products licensing the technology reach market we'll be looking at a beautifully-connected end-to-end vision for a powerfully-featured digital home at a much lower cost of entry than ever before.
You'll be able to beam music from any iOS device to any AirPlay device (and via an AirPort Express also -- anyone noticed the huge discount on these at Amazon at the moment?)
Recently some clever Apple-watchers claim you can also stream video from an iOS device running AirPlay to the Apple TV. If true, this could be why Mr Jobs is watching his TV using his iPad.
4/ Why Apple TV loves 720p
Many complain the Apple TV won't output video in true high-res video format, its supported resolution is 1,280-x-720, or 720p. Why? Take it to Troughton-Smith once again. He's noticed that the Cocoa-like UIKit development kit already lets developers create apps with 720p video output. It has done so since iOS 4.2. And who uses it? "Mainly those creating TV-out UIs in iPad apps."
"Developers have already started crafting ten-foot-UI experiences in existing iOS apps, so it would be a no-brainer for that to translate over to AppleTV wholesale."
Oh -- one more thing: Apple has already added remote control support into iOS, making it possible to create remote-control driven iOS apps. In other words, apps which run on your TV, controlled by a remote, or (potentially) by an existing iOS device.
5/ Look inside
Inside the Apple TV you'll find 8GB of flash storage, 256MB or RAM and an A4 processor -- the same processor as you'll find inside an iPad, iPhone 4 or iPod touch. Indeed, it's the same amount of RAM as you'll find inside the iPod touch or iPad.
Why is all that power there just to drive Apple's 'Lowtide' Apple TV software?
Apple's made the news today with its decision to pay $1.7 million to a couple for a small house standing in one acre of land, a house that's situated right beside its new billion dollar data center.
That Apple is prepared to pay that much cash just for an acre of land should be enough to convince anybody that the company is engaged in a serious strategic play.
We're looking at big moves into the cloud in Cupertino once that data center is completed at the end of the year. This will likely include progression in Apple's plan for iTunes in the cloud.
Turner Broadcasting, NBC Universal and HBO have all developed applications for the Google TV. These networks say they don't want to climb aboard the iTunes bandwagon. But now Apple supports Netflix on Apple TV, it is only a question of time before perhaps it allows broadcasters to offer and profit from their own Apps. Perhaps.