With Apple consolidating its Apple TV offerings this morning down to a single 160GB SKU at a lower $229 price point, we're once again split between Apple axing their "hobby" or giving it a much-needed refresh.
If Apple does axe the Apple TV, however, something would need to take its place in the living room. Could that something be the iPhone 3GS and iPod touch G3 and the still-mythic iTablet? Dock them properly to an HD TV, and could you have a solution with one heck of a built in controller?
We know the iPhone (and likely new iPod touch) can support 720p and 1080p out. We even hoped Apple would flip the switch on that feature last week in order to better position themselves competitively against the about-to-ship Zune HD. They could still flip it at some point, however, along with introducing new HDMI-based video output cables.
This would go a long way towards showing iPhone and iPod touch content on the big screen, but right now one of the Apple TV's strengths is streaming rather than just storing and showing. You can attach an Apple TV to your HD TV and, without any local content, stream all the iTunes media you have on your Mac or Windows PC, and the potentially 2TB drives that can now attach to those (or more with RAID, Drobo, etc.)
Neither iPhone nor iPod have ethernet, and both are stuck on the older, slower 802.11g Wi-Fi standard (though the iPod touch G3 might be updatable to 802.11n).
That's where an iTablet, presumably with much beefier internals and faster Wi-Fi (though we still doubt ethernet) comes in. Apple could position it as a dock-at-home, take it with you on-the-go solution.
Of course, whether you'd want to lock your iTablet to a TV rather than using it to surf and chat while watching TV is debatable, and could be a deal-breaker for many. Though better that than just trying to up-sell everyone to a Mac Mini...
Looking at it this way, it seems that even in an iPhone, iPod touch, and perhaps iTablet world, there's still a place for an Apple TV in the lineup. If only for now.