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What's Apple Hiding in B82?

What's Apple Hiding in B82?

Judging by the invitations Apple sent out for its next media event, we'll probably know all about the iPad 3 by this time next week. But the event would also be a perfect time to spring in with an update to Apple TV. It's a little soon to hope for a revamp that turns the device into an actual television, but there are some key improvements Apple could still make, possibly relating to the mysterious "B82" project.

It's no secret that Apple will unveil the new iPad 3 at its March 7 event for journalists next week. The coy and vague invitations to the event featured an iPad-looking image, with the words, "We have something you really have to see. And touch."

Beyond the hope for a wicked-sharp new iPad 3 screen and speculation about a beefier processor, a whole different set of rumors has been gaining momentum: First, might Apple take advantage of all the hoopla around the attention-grabbing iPad 3 and use it to introduce an iOS-based sibling, a new generation of the Apple TV?

Definitely. OK, maybe not. But the signs point in that direction for a few reasons. First, it looks like the retail supply chain is experiencing a distinct lack of available Apple TV units. This late in a product cycle, that usually means that Apple is quietly letting its partners sell out of stock so they don't get stuck with too much of the old on their hands when the new is unveiled.

Second, on its own, the Apple TV does not generate enough interest to hold its own media event. While I don't believe that Apple thinks it's "just a hobby," the sales of the Apple TV have been dwarfed by the intense scrutiny and success of the iPad line. If there's any time to introduce a new generation of Apple TV and actually get people to notice, now is a good time -- better than most.

Third, late this summer, OS X Mountain Lion is going to be able to stream anything on your Mac to an Apple TV. To do that effectively, I'm guessing that a new dual-core Apple TV that is more 1080p-capable might be in order, and that pretty much means a new processor and maybe a smarter graphics engine brain.

Plus, while we're at it, if the promise of a high-resolution Retina display pans out for the iPad 3 -- and for the next-generation MacBooks this spring ... then Apple TV should be able to handle anything our Apple-centric devices can throw its way.

So What About the Cryptic 'B82' Codename?

By far the most interesting rumor that I've found comes courtesy of a 9to5mac.com report that notes it's hearing about a mystery accessory called "B82" internally at Apple.

Of course, this accessory could simply be a new cable or adapter or even a fancy new cover or stand for the iPad 3. Or maybe it will be a new remote control. The next Apple TV is also expected to include Bluetooth capability, so a new remote is a possibility. Would it work with the older Apple TV? I hope so.

Of course, you can control you Apple TV using your iPad or iPhone with the Apple Remote app via WiFi, so Apple might not be considering a better, more functional remote control. But I still hope so, and here's why: Siri.

If Siri is the killer new app or navigation mechanism for the Apple TV, not having an audio remote would be a major hurdle. First off, can you imagine your Apple TV unit being smart enough to hear a voice-based command from across the room while there's a bunch of family party background noise? No way. Worse yet, what if there's a bunch of chatter on the show you're watching and your Apple TV believed it heard a request? How irritating would it be to have your TV change channels on you?

But with a remote with a built-in mic, your odds of success in a noisy environment rise quickly. Plus, think about a quiet environment -- while I doubt many sleeping spouses want to listen to their partners whispering to Siri to control the TV in the bedroom at night, a remote with a mic could work for a quiet household that's mostly asleep in other rooms.

What might be even better? A remote with a touchscreen built in. While I have an old iPhone or iPod touch sitting around the house with the Apple Remote app loaded on it, I don't really want to have to control my TV with my iPad or iPhone. To keep my experience with the Apple TV pleasant, I really do want to have a dedicated remote control. Besides, friends and family will need a dedicated remote in the event you leave or need to make a call.

How Much Hope?

Unfortunately, I'm mostly hoping for a new remote. I want to believe we'll get one, but here's what has me hesitating: Apple doesn't have to deliver a new remote yet to still keep its little Apple TV project running smoothly. The competition and pressure just isn't there, and I don't believe we'll see the astounding new TV interface that Steve Jobs said he "cracked" before he died ... not until the real all-in-one totally new big screen "Apple TV" arrives.

I just sure as heck hope B82 is not another iPad cover.


MacNewsWorld columnist Chris Maxcer has been writing about the tech industry since the birth of the email newsletter, and he still remembers the clacking Mac keyboards from high school -- Apple's seed-planting strategy at work. While he enjoys elegant gear and sublime tech, there's something to be said for turning it all off -- or most of it -- to go outside. To catch him, take a "firstnamelastname" guess at Gmail.com.


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