Apple TV is the glue that will once again bind all Apple's products together. In an age of Cloud Computing Apple TV is the product which will provide the role of iTunes, the central hub that had to be smashed as Apple finally got with the times with iCloud. The vision is devilishly simple: content via iTunes, control via iDevices and Siri and connection via AirPlay. The integration of apps would be nice, but with AirPlay Mirroring in iOS and now OS X Mountain Lion it seems an unnecessary additional headache to give developers.
Certainly this means Apple TV has a significant advantage over traditional, clumsy so-called Smart TVs, but what about content when compared to media giants like Sky, Virgin Media, Netflix, LoveFilm or the BBC? In short: what competition? All these companies (and many more) have built apps to stream both live and on-demand content making the Apple TV an all in one Sky-Virgin-Media-Netflix-LoveFilm-BBC-country-specific digibox. Wider codec support? It won't matter given the number of codec friendly players available in the app store and the likes of Air Video which simply convert PC or NAS based content on the fly.
Apple TV is a multi-format games console too thanks to the AirPlay Mirroring of OS X (which these days has Steam titles) and iOS. Can an Xbox, PS3, Nintendo Wii U or PlayStation Vita match the vast array of cheap, addictive iOS games when combined with full on Mac headliners like Portal 2 and complex mouse-based strategy games such as Civilisation V? It looks unlikely.
When Steve Jobs told biographer Walter Isaacson, "I'd like to create an integrated television set that is completely easy to use. It would be seamlessly synced with all of your devices and with iCloud. It will have the simplest user interface you could imagine [and] I finally cracked it" it caused shockwaves, but the parts of the puzzle are all there to see. Yes Apple could continue its obsessive policy of control by making an actual Apple television but, like apps, it doesn't really matter and given the inherent losses in TV production it hardly ties with Apple's mantra of thick profit margins.
None of this is to say Apple TV will have it easy. Google has a similar, if less developed, vision for Google TV and Android while Microsoft's combination of Xbox, Windows 8 and Windows Phone clearly has matching aspirations… and it has Kinect. What we are arguing about, however, are merely the podium places - these are the companies who will revolutionise TV; not Sony, Samsung, Toshiba, Sharp, Philips or Panasonic.
On 9 January 2007 Steve Jobs announced at the Macworld Conference & Expo that pre-orders for the first Apple TV would begin. No-one remembers this because during the same keynote he unveiled the iPhone. Five years and two months on we suspect the next Apple TV outing will live longer in the memory…