The Apple TV, which Steve Jobs famously once described as “a hobby,” has been given a promotion. When you shop in Apple’s online store, the Apple TV is now a top-of-the-page category of its own.
For now, all you see there is the Apple TV itself and its remote – unlike the other categories, where you see multiple devices: an iMac and a laptop; two iPods; different iPhones; three iPod models. But Apple’s promoting of the Apple TV makes it clear that the company will be turning the device into something much more important.
It’s doubtful that Apple will increase the product line; there’s no need for two different Apple TVs. Since the device merely streams content – unlike its first couple of generations, when it contained a hard drive – there’s no need to have a second model with more (or less) storage. Unless Apple is planning an actual TV set (which I doubt), there may never be a second product in that line.
I think the real reason for this promotion is that Apple will soon be unveiling new ways of getting TV, via the Apple TV. This could come through subscriptions to channels or networks, or simply season passes for TV shows that display as individual “apps” on your screen when you use the Apple TV. This could be a huge market for Apple, if the company can convince broadcasters to follow them. The top-of-the-page Apple TV image and link suggests that the company has convinced content producers. I think we’ll be hearing more about the Apple TV soon, and that this promotion is just a hint of the Apple TV’s becoming a key product in Apple’s strategy.
P.S.: My friend Doug Adams said, on Twitter, that “An Apple TV w built-in AirPort Express would be fine with me.” Interesting idea: get rid of the AirPort Express as a standalone device, and include its features in a new Apple TV.