I speculate – The TV product that Jobs figured out? A high-powered Apple TV with a Fusion drive. Coming next week.

cableby Sean MacEntee

Apple taking shipments of ‘Set Top Boxes’ ahead of Sept. 10 event, hints at new Apple TV product
[Via AppleInsider]

Recent bill of lading information from the U.S. Department of Homeland security shows Apple recently took three shipments of a “Set Top Boxes” from a known partner supplier in China, suggesting the company may be planning to unveil a new Apple TV at a special event on Sept. 10.

[More]

Before he died, Jobs told his biographer they had cracked the TV. We have been waiting since.

No way Apple does a TV display – the margins are too small. And even Steve said the Apple TV was a hobby.

I’m going to suggest that next week we are going to hear about what this project is going to be. I think it will involve a new sort of Apple TV, with much more storage than before – a true media server – that will provide rented or purchased video/music content in an ecosystem that locks people into the Apple system evert bit as hard as they were into the iOS system.

Here are the bits I am tying together to support this: “set-top” devices delivered to Apple; an odd new power supply that does not fit any current Apple product; the purchase of a video company by Apple; ad-skipping technology Apple has; all sorts of deals with content creators Apple has announced.

First, we have a lot of set-top boxes being delivered.  Then there is this latest bit – a new type of external power unit – a 17 W unit.

Not big enough for a laptop but too much power for an iPad or iPhone. The current Apple TV needs only a 6 W supply.

Let’s throw this in the mix – Apple quietly acquired a company that made it easier to find videos and TV shows across a range of services such as Hulu, Netflix and Amazon.

And then add this stuff about Apple have ad-skipping technology. Including possibly paying the content providers for this service. Also include increasing interest in iAds by many corporations. Apple is increasing its staffing for iAds tremendously right now. $10 million of ads have just been purchased. Ad revenue to Apple is expected to be over $300 next year.

So I am going to speculate by combining these things. Apple is about to release a souped up Apple TV with greater storage space (needing more power) as well as an entire ecosystem to support online video. It’ll happen next week.

The current Apple TV does great for streaming videos but has no space to store much of anything, such as purchased material from the iTunes store, or to have very complicated apps.

The Mac mini has hard drive space and can work quite well as a media server. Throw in the iCloud and you can have easy access to all your music and video content.

Now, the Mac mini is a full fledged computer. It has way more than is needed for an Apple  TV media server. So remove the extraneous stuff.

Think of it as a more powerful Apple TV with a hard drive. Say one of Apple’s new Fusion drives. a 1 TB drive would be able to store a lot of video right on the unit.

Having a DVR aspect is important to any such device and many people love the idea of being able to use one to skip commercials as well as store the material they have purchased. So if Apple adds a fusion drive to use as a DVR, it has the ad skipping technology in hand.

That is the hardware – coupling an Apple TV with a new hard drive. It would need more power than an Apple TV. 11 watts more?

Now to content. Apple would leverage its App store along with iTunes to make it easy for anyone to customize what they want access to – ESPN, Disney, the Weather channel, etc. We just saw new HBO apps. Expect more to come as we get the ability to chose a la carte the channels we want to watch. 

ESPN now streams many sports events live. NBC Sports Channel either broadcasts or streams EVERY English Premiership soccer game every week.

How about the NFL streaming every game live? Each with an app. They can make money by selling the app or collecting a subscription or selling ads (maybe through Apple’s iAds? )

What happens when every ‘channel’ has an app? What happens when they cut out the cable guys and let us pay for the shows we want when we want them directly? Or if they want to give us the apps free and show commercials, Apple now has technology to reimburse them when we skip. They cannot lose.

Of course, with all these choices, one will need some sort of guide or aggregator to find the programs one wants., and then to get  to the app we need. At the moment it is a pain to search Netflix or Amazon. Buying a video aggregator now makes sense. One that can suggest shows across all the channels.

It could be a truly customizable channel guide, showing us what is available.

The greater storage space allows more potent apps to be developed. The current Apple TV only has 8 GB of storage. The device I am talking about could be 500 GB or more, with maybe 128 GB in solid state memory.

App developers would have plenty to work with. We could see entirely new apps, ones that perhaps mashed up a particular program with lots of other content.

Perhaps even souped up gaming experience also, using the iPhone or iPad as a controller.

Of course, it will be able to play music from iCloud or stream it for iRadio.

One of the neat things about something like DirecTv is that I can use an iOS app on my iPhone to control when things are recorded. In case I forget and am away. This device will let us do the same but for any channel.

I will be able to control when things are recorded from my iPhone. Say I am away and forgot to record the football game. I can simply tap my iPhone and get it done.

Content providers will have the option to sell their programs or stream them – to let people store their videos in the iCloud or just watch them all at once.

We would be in total control of what content the content providers provide, with Apple serving as the distributor, accountant and ad company.

So, I think Apple is going to announce a powered up Apple TV set top box – one with potent storage abilties to hold more powerful apps as well as content, which can be retrieved from the iCloud, as well as from any streaming site that wants to.

I am not the only one thinking this way (I only found this after I started righting this, when I searched to see if anyone was thinking along similar lines)

Now, one thing I worry about is the ISPs. They often have data caps and watching video by mostly streaming it could cause problems. especially as some of the cable companies also provide internet.  The loss in revenue from a la carte approaches and streaming will not make them happy unless the jack up data prices. 

Of course, companies that can provide the Internet for lower cost are going to thrive. Cable may find being an ISP is not such a monopoly anymore.

How will Apple deal with the cable companies? It has been in talks of some sort with them for several years. And just recently ‘blew them off”. Here is what I think may be about to happen.

It may be that Apple will be providing the ‘premium’ channels (HBO, NFL, ESPN).  No need to pay for all those channels anymore. So we could all move to basic cable. Lots of revenue lost to the cable companies while the premium content providers still make money.

Then even some of the basic cable content providers will wonder why they are still showing reruns when anyone can easily get those through Hulu or Netflix or Amazon. They will take their great shows like Justified etc. and make apps for them.

Then basic cable becomes even more of a wasteland.

Cable companies may rue the day they let Apple blow them off.