Cult of Mac reported yesterday that one of their sources claims to have seen a prototype of an Apple TV set. It seems fairly well established that Apple has been experimenting with developing a TV for years and has built prototypes. But this is the first time that someone is claiming to have seen one and is spilling the details about it. And before we get to those details, it's important to note that just because a prototype exists doesn't mean that the product will see the light of day. Or that an eventual product will resemble the prototype. So for what it's worth, here's the gossip.
The TV looks like Apple's current line of monitors called the Cinema Display, but is much larger. It has a built-in camera for videoconferencing via FaceTime, and Siri for operating the TV via voice and for making FaceTime calls. These latter features have long been rumored, and it's hard to imagine a TV not having them. But more on that in a moment.
In addition, Cult of Mac's source said that the camera has face recognition. It can zoom in on a person's face and follow him around the room. This facilitates making FaceTime calls from any location in the room rather than having to stand immediately in front of the TV. Even this face-recognition rumor has surfaced before.
The mockup accompanying this post is by Dan Draper, who tried to emulate the sorts of decisions that Apple designer Jony Ive would make in terms of shape of the stand. Cult of Mac says their source is highly placed and that he claimed this is indeed the television that Steve Jobs was alluding to.
It's exciting to have another confirmation that Apple is actively working on a TV, and it'll be interesting to see if it happens. CEO Tim Cook did say when he launched the new iPad that Apple would be introducing a number of new products this year.
One thing I question, though, is whether Siri would be integrated into the TV. Wouldn't it make more sense to have it integrated in a remote? And wouldn't it make sense for the remote to have a touch-sensitive display like iOS devices rather than buttons? And for that matter, why not have the apps on the remote itself, perhaps mirrored on the TV? In the end, the remote would be quite a bit like the iOS devices themselves. I would think that Apple would simply put the remote functionality into the iOS devices that people already have. And if a purchaser of a TV doesn't already have an iOS device, then a simple iPod-touch-like remote would be available for purchase as an add-on.
My thinking stems from using my iPad functionally as a remote for my TV. I have a number of favorite video-streaming apps and I much prefer operating my HDTV via my iPad than using the Apple TV settop box or using my laptop connected to my TV. I'm familiar with the iPad interface, and have enjoyed using it to organize and control my TV-watching. I keep thinking this is the sort of experience an Apple TV set may offer.