Almost as soon as TVs started to get flatter, they slowly added intelligence too. But compared to the progress of phones, tablets and laptops, our HDTVs are still lagging far behind. If all of the rumors are true, tomorrow Apple will make its fourth attempt at filling the gap with a new TV box. Apple's TV ambitions predate Engadget and even the iPod -- the Apple Interactive Television Box had a cloud DVR vision back in 1994 -- and accordingly, over the last decade, rumors of what the company might do have taken on a life of their own.
This week we're expecting to see the natural evolution of a "hobby" the company has slowly cultivated since Apple TV launched in 2007, but what if it went the other way? Even with millions of squared-off hockey pucks on shelves around the world, pivoting to an iSight-equipped, Intel-powered plasma straight out of a Gene Munster/Mary Shelley bedtime story could be just what we need. A 180-degree turn into the high end that's crazy instead of boring: Meet the Apple TV that never was.
First, the bad news: While O'Grady's PowerPage kicked off the "Apple Plasma" rumor in 2006, it's just too late for one of our favorite display technologies to be revived. In 2015, Apple and Tim Cook would probably do better with something from LG's 4K OLED selection. It's expensive, but it guarantees an exceptional picture and ultra-thin frame that Apple's designers could work with in any way they wanted. That price tag guarantees that (at least at first) this would only be for the high-end market, but if there's room for a gold Watch and maxed-out Mac Pro, it can fit in there somewhere.
Back to that 2006 rumor: It linked Intel's "Viiv" platform (remember that? probably not) to the flat-screen Apple was supposed to build. Intel isn't dreaming that same dream anymore, and even sold off the internet video tech it developed to Verizon recently. But there's no time like the present to jump back in, and with new "Skylake" CPUs that power everything from phones to laptops, why wouldn't a TV work too?
What to watch
By dipping into its enormous financial resources, Apple could become the kind of player in content that even Netflix and Comcast can only dream of being. Thanks to help from the FCC, it's the perfect time for a new kind of internet provider to get in there and work out contracts to save TV from itself. Guaranteeing a massive payment up front could convince giant media studios to bite on an entirely new kind of service for their movies and TV shows. It's unlikely, but necessary to leap beyond the tiny changes we've seen over the last few years.
The TV setup we imagine blends the ease of cable TV with the flexibility the à la carte crowd wants: Pay a subscription fee, and then select what you want to watch. That fee gives you a certain amount of credits, and unlocking a series for a month (or the duration of a new season) takes some of them away. If you don't want to watch it, you don't pay for it, and they don't get paid. If you want to watch ad-free, then you pay a little extra. Simple enough?
The Apple TV we expect to see soon is rumored by 9to5Mac to have a larger remote with touch support and motion control. That follows years of suggestions and patent filings concerning a "Magic Wand" that can use gestures to fly through menus. Patent filings also pointed to a universal remote with a camera that takes pictures of other remotes so it can immediately recognize and copy their settings. If Apple really wants to go next level, then it could take a hint from Project Tango and push a remote with two cameras in it, capable of 3D-sensing its environment and powering augmented reality gaming you can use with a phone or tablet and... OK, maybe the most recent rumors are best left alone on this one.
One More Thing
Sure, we had to cut some corners and sub in new tech for some of the old, but really this is about trundling down memory lane for the rumors that never quite turned out. Apps, universal search, some light video gaming and, of course, YouTube should be more than enough to move a few million more units to push this "hobby." Of course, if there's still time before the presentation then Tim Cook and the rest of the squad should seriously consider a "one more thing" Ultra Apple TV with motion-sensing 3D remote -- or maybe we should see if Samsung is interested?
[Image credit: (TV) Getty Images/iStockphoto, (chased by televisions) Getty Images,