Rumors were swirling on Friday that a new Apple TV device was imminent. The reason for the rumors? Apple began offering a $25 iTunes Store gift card with the purchase of each Apple TV. Analysts and enthusiasts concluded that Apple was clearing out inventory to make room for a new device, especially as it's been over two years since Apple has released a new version of the hardware. And then Jim Darlymple dashed all hopes with a single word: "Nope." He apparently has contacts inside Apple, because he's always been right when he says there's no truth to a rumor. So while the gift card offer may not herald a new device, it's an appealing offer in its own right.
One thing's for sure: Apple isn't offering the deal because of slow sales. During Apple's shareholder meeting on Friday, Apple CEO Tim Cook said Apple TV brought in over $1 billion in revenue in fiscal year 2013. The estimated 80% growth rate of sales of the device makes it Apple's fastest growing hardware product.
Something is coming; we just don't know what or when. Bloomberg had reported a new Apple TV would be coming in April, but that now seems unlikely. Some reports said that while Apple may introduce a new device as early as April during a media event, the device itself wouldn't be available until fall.
I'm still holding out hope that even before we see the new device Apple will launch a new version of the software for it, including a new interface. Rumors have suggested that such a release may be coming, and that it would open up the device for games. In addition, a new App Store would launch.
In every case, it's clear that Apple TV is no longer a 'hobby," as Apple had characterized it in the past. In 2013, for example, Apple added 18 new channels, a number of which I find quite appealing, such as the Smithsonian Channel, Crackle, and PBS. You can find a list of the 34 currently available channels on the Apple website.
In addition to the channels, Apple TV is increasingly integrated with iCloud, such that you can listen to your iTunes music or view your Photostream photos.
I suspect an additional reason for the increasing popularity of the device is the great AirPlay feature that lets you stream video and audio from your iPhone or iPad to your TV. Plus, the AirPlay feature lets you use your HDTV as a display for your iPhone or iPad. Everything on the screen of your device, games or whatever, appears on your TV.