Practical Technology

for practical people.

Apple TV 3.0?

While we’re still waiting around for direct to Apple TV video rentals, aka Apple TV 2.0, some hints have recently arrived at what Apple TV 3.0 might look like.

These hints were discovered in an Apple patent about placing ‘widgets,’ small, useless applications you can run on a computer, on a multimedia center. Or, in other words, putting widgets on your television courtesy of Apple TV.

Most of us know widgets that do jobs like telling us the weather, stock market quotes and the like. In Mac OS, these are made available on the Dashboard. From the Apple patent, it looks like we can expect to see similar functionality on our TVs somewhere down the road.

However, Apple has bigger plans than that. The patent also includes method to pull up additional information about what you’re watching. For example, if you’re watching a baseball game, you could pull up a widget showing the scores in other games or the current standings in the league. That’s nice, but not really all that news. The running ticker at the bottom of many games, for example, gives you that kind of information.

You could, however, use that same technology to deliver new information. For instance, if you’re completely befuddled by who’s who on Lost—I know I am—an information widget could give you access to a character’s history.

You’ll also be able to chat online with friends using iChat, Mac OS X’s video-conferencing. This strongly hints that at some time in the future a new model of the Apple TV will appear with a built-in video camera ala the Mac laptops. Or, perhaps more likely, that you’ll be able to attach a Webcam to the Apple TV’s currently unused USB port.

At first this struck me as a rather pointless addition, but then I started to think about it. The idea is to enable you to talk with your buddies and friends while watching a show together. While I’m not likely to want to talk to anyone while I’m watching House MD, it did strike me that with my best sports buddy in Dallas, almost a thousand miles away, it would be great to watch a game ‘together’ with the aid of an Apple TV.

So, when can we expect to see any of this? I think the earliest would be next year. First, Apple needs to roll-out the video-rental software update sooner than later (hint, hint). Then, I expect them to see how well this version of the Apple TV does. If the revised Apple TV does as well as I, and many others, think it will, then Apple will start working on the next edition of my favorite media extender.

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