Apple CEO Tim Cook speaks during an event in March, when Apple introduced the third version of the iPad.
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Apple CEO Tim Cook speaks during an event in March, when Apple introduced the third version of the iPad.

Story highlights

A major reboot of Apple's TV device could be a game changer

The computer company could take an Xbox Kinect-like approach with Apple TV

Apple could allow devs to create dedicated TV apps, and leverage the AirPlay feature

Apple is expected to make news at its developer's conference Monday

Wired —  

Even six months ago, Apple TV was the big snoozer in Apple’s consumer hardware line-up. The device is a simple set-top media puck — not much more than a passive conduit for piping iTunes, Netflix and iPad content to one’s TV.

But, oh, how times have changed.

On the eve of WWDC 2012 – Apple’s annual developers’ conference – speculation swirls around Apple’s positioning as a television manufacturer, and how Apple TV might play into a greater television hardware strategy. Indeed, an Apple TV reboot could be a game changer. And it would also be the WWDC highlight for users of the set-top puck, for app developers, and even for the TV entertainment industry at large.

Now, granted, Apple just revamped the Apple TV user interface with the launch of the third-generation iPad. So in some respects, it seems unlikely that Apple would feature the product in another media event just a few months later.

But the streaming TV companion still offers vast untapped potential. And with the attendance of thousands of devoted developers, WWDC is the perfect venue to announce a new Apple TV platform that exposes API support. And we can’t forget how Tim Cook recently said the TV space is “an area of intense interest” for Apple.

Apple TV is one of the best set-top devices in a consumer electronics category that, quite frankly, doesn’t enjoy mass consumer report. Think about it: How many of your non-techie friends own either a Roku, Boxee Box, Google TV or Apple TV? Nonetheless, Apple TV sales are picking up momentum: The device is on track to sell twice as many units as were sold in 2011.

The upshot: Apple doesn’t need to announce its own television set at WWDC to make waves in the living room space. If it can reinvent Apple TV into a truly compelling, mass-market consumer product, it can realize Steve Jobs’ dream of finally cracking the television code.

Apple just needs to address a few key areas before Apple TV becomes a really big deal.

Apps, apps, and AirPlay

“What we might see at WWDC is Apple opening up the app economy approach they’ve had with the iPhone and iPad to the Apple TV,” Gartner analyst Michael McGuire told Wired.

Apple has well over 600,000 apps in the iOS App Store, but only eight third-party content choices (e.g., Netflix, MLB.com, Flickr, etc.) on Apple TV. So WWDC offers the perfect opportunity to introduce developers to how they could start expanding Apple TV’s repertoire of content choices. Indeed, BGR reported that Apple would be introducing an entirely new OS and API for developers to take advantage of.

There are two possible ways Apple could open up the Apple TV platform to third-party app developers: It could allow devs to create dedicated TV apps, or it could more heavily leverage (and open up) the AirPlay feature already baked into Apple TV to port existing iPad apps to the big screen.

“We’ve been focused on trying to understand how the app model evolves with the introduction of the TV platform,” Jeremy Allaire, CEO of online video p