Is the Apple TV, the little black hockey puck, not the full sized mythical HDTV, ready for a refresh? 9to5 Mac is reporting that some authorized Apple retailers such as Target, Amazon and Walmart have run out of inventory. Since the 9to5 Mac article was posted, Amazon has removed the 2 to 5 week lead time and is no longer offering the the product themselves. Now on Amazon’s site, Apple TV is only offered from third-party Amazon merchants (“available from these sellers”). However, Apple’s retail stores still have inventory. A check of Apple stores in the New York City, Boston and Los Angeles areas show Apple TV still in stock. In the small number of stores that were out of it, they expect to have it in within a week. Regardless, it appears the supply is drying up. Update (2/21): I learned today that Best Buy is almost out of Apple TVs in Eastern Massachusetts. Oddly enough, their system says the sku will be active till 2015. Then again, computers can lie (Right, Hal?)
In a related development, the iMore blog (and others) are reporting the impending launch of the iPad 3 on March 7th. It’s rumored that the iPad 3 will come with support for LTE and will feature a high-resolution retina display. The supposed display resolution is 2048 x 1536, well beyond the resolution of most HDTVs which display 1080P or 1920×1080 resolution.
Knowing Apple they would not release a product like the iPad 3 to market without software and content to support its advanced capabilites. Given that Apple is focused on the user experience, I can’t imagine them upgrading the iPad without upgrading the supporting ecosystem. Now, every time Apple does a product introduction, they feature partners who have developed apps to take advantage of the device’s new capabilities. It’s only logical that iTunes would be upgraded to provide higher quality video to the iPad 3. Currently, high-definition TV shows and movies from iTunes are offered in 720P and Dolby Digital surround sound. There’s some evidence that Apple has been preparing 1080P content for iTunes for a while now.
That brings us to Apple TV. Another important part of the Apple ecosystem for consuming iTunes video. Also, the Apple TV and the iPad are complimentary devices. Currently, you can mirror your iPad screen or stream content to an Apple TV via Airplay. So, it’s hard to imagine that Apple would let that high resolution iPad screen be down res’ed to 720P on the biggest (and now maybe not the best) screen in the house. The current Apple TV came to market in September 2010.
Given all this, I expect that we’ll see an Apple TV upgrade with the iPad launch or soon thereafter. Finally, I believe that the new Apple TV will be viewed as a incremental refresh. We’ll probably see 1080P video and the new A6 processor but not much more. As far as Siri goes, she’s been evasive whenever I ask a question about voice-recognition coming to Apple TV. Apple probably doesn’t want to reveal too much about their upcoming mythical Apple HDTV. If the new Apple TV contains the A6, it will have lots of horsepower to support future upgrades.
Update (2/28/2012) : 9to5Mac has been told by “reliable sources” that there will be a new Apple TV launching at the confirmed March 7th event. My own check of inventory confirms there’s still no Apple TV stock at Amazon. In addition, some but not all Apple stores in eastern Massachusetts are now out of stock too. According to Apple, those stores will have inventory again on March 3rd.
Update (3/7/2012) : It’s here! The new Apple TV was just launched and I have the details.