Will the new AppleTV have an A4 chip?

Discussion in 'Apple TV and Home Theater' started by NoisyDude, Feb 22, 2010.

  1. NoisyDude macrumors newbie

    Oct 29, 2009
    Is this the future of the :apple:TV?

    As stated in Apple bringing ARM architecture to new platforms:
    It makes sense to me, especially if Apple invested $1B dollars to develop the chip.

    What do you think?
  2. markfc macrumors 6502a


    Sep 18, 2006
    Prestatyn, Wales, UK
    Does the A4 decode 1080p?
  3. jaw04005 macrumors 601


    Aug 19, 2003
    No, but the Power-VR GPU can.
  4. NoisyDude thread starter macrumors newbie

    Oct 29, 2009
    Good question; don't know

    I don't know, but it seems that it is capable of decoding 720p at least. See the specs for the iPad which will play hidef movies. This was shown at the iPad announcement.
  5. jaw04005 macrumors 601


    Aug 19, 2003
    Supposedly, the A4 chip has two components — the actual ARM CPU and the Power VX GPU, on a single SOC.

    Apple would have rewrite the Apple TV software for ARM as it’s currently x86 based.

    There’s no way Apple would build an entirely new OS just for Apple TV. So, you’re looking at trying to put the Apple TV software (which currently uses Mac OS 10.4 Tiger as a foundation) on top of iPhone OS, which would not be an easy thing to do.

    I don’t think it’ll happen anytime soon.

    Then there’s whole question of what happens to Front Row. Front Row hasn’t been updated (other than security fixes) since 2007. By moving Apple TV (the hardware/software hybrid successor to Front Row) to iPhone OS, you would splinter future Front Row development for the Mac.
  6. zedsdead macrumors 68040

    Jun 20, 2007
    I am very curious to see what direction Apple takes the Apple TV in (although I will be happy with any hardware update at this point). I would prefer the A4 iPhone OS with an App Store, but anything is good.
  7. VTMac macrumors 6502

    Jun 9, 2008
    A few comments.

    1) It's far from clear that there will ever be another apple tv. It's a hobby and as such this may be it.

    2) Moving to a new chip architecture does not require rewriting all the software. That's plain silly. It will require recompiling the majority of the software and rewriting the low level aspects of the software -- namely the drivers.

    3) The more interesting question is if they decide to make a new apple tv, will it be based on osx snow leopard or iphone os. If on snow leopard, that would require some kernel rework in addition to the drivers, but would minimize any work needed for the core software of atv. If based on iphone os, then in addition to the drivers, it's likely there will need to be significant updates to the ATV UI itself to account for the difference between the cocoa/cocoa touch libraries.

    4) If there is a new atv, I'd say it's a virtual certainty it will be a4 based. That chip is ideal for an ATV type device. It decodes 1080p in hardware. It's incredibly power efficient so it runs very cool. It's very cheap.

    Personally I hope they do a new ATV and offer it in a super cheap streaming only version, in addition to versions with solid state drives. That would probably be 18+ month off however for SSD to drop to the price points necessary.
  8. zedsdead macrumors 68040

    Jun 20, 2007
    Q: Where do you see things going with the Apple TV?
    A: It's still a hobby, but our gut tells us there's something there. The go-to-market model is difficult, and we have no interest in being in the TV market. But we have continued to invest in the Apple TV and will keep doing so.

    Okay, even though it is still a hobby, these words are at least encouraging. As much as I want new hardware, I still don't expect to see it this year, but I think we will in 2011.
  9. jaw04005 macrumors 601


    Aug 19, 2003
    He’s the only Apple exec that has ever had anything remotely nice to say about the Apple TV.

    And a rewrite would have to occur to move to the iPhone OS/ARM. There’s no way they can just port Front Row, and it wouldn’t be a simple recompile. :rolleyes:
  10. VTMac macrumors 6502

    Jun 9, 2008
    Unless coded by complete buffoons, it would be new drivers and a recompile, assuming is was still based on the full OSX.

    If they were transitioning to iPhone OS, then UI portions of the code would likely need rewritten. The backend should largely remain untouched.

    The only way you end up "rewriting" code is if you've tied it to hardware or change the underlying platform. Hardware dependence only happens when using assembly, or using a a framework that itself has a dependence. This principally occurs with drivers. These are the only items that should need rewritten if there is anything resembling a decent architecture. And I'm sure there is.

    I do this for a living. It's not that hard.
  11. gnasher729 macrumors P6


    Nov 25, 2005
    1. Apple didn't invest $1bn developing A4. That number is complete bull.
    2. When you look closely at the Apple TV, you'll find it has no batteries, but a power cable. Since it has a power cable, there is no point using an extreme power saving chip. Apple will use a cheap old Intel chip that would empty the batteries of an iPad within five minutes (slightly exaggerated).
  12. VTMac macrumors 6502

    Jun 9, 2008
    It's about heat and noise. The a4 can easily be used with only passive cooling. Any cheap intel chip is going to need fans. Additionally apple is essentially leasing fab time for production of the a4. They will be looking to push volume to gain efficiencies wherever possible.

    Ultimately I doubt we'll see any new hardware for quite some time. Too many external factors have to come into alignment for apple to take the next step.
  13. CrAkD macrumors 68040


    Feb 15, 2010
    Boston, MA
    it would have to be a light version of the Iphone OS. Cause yeah all the apps work on the iphone os but uhhh they are all touch based so thats not going to work. But hopefully they do use a cooler chip. you could cook an egg on my ATV it gets so hot. the few times I've put a bluray in my ps3 and left the case resting on the atv after the movie the case is super hot and super flexible from the heat and thats when the atv is idle! not even playing anything.
  14. jaw04005 macrumors 601


    Aug 19, 2003
    Apple Insider posted a bit more detail:

    Cook said he believes the Apple TV is an outstanding product, but there just isn't a large enough market to make the hardware worth a great deal of concentration from his company. The product is a "hobby," he said, because it doesn't compare to the phone, computer and MP3 player markets in terms of sales.

    "Apple TV is still a hobby," he said. "We've been very clear about that."

    But he also suggested the company's set-top-box device wouldn't necessarily lay dormant. It may just take time for the potential market to grow.

    "Because our gut says something's there, we're continuing to invest in this," he said. "But today, it's still just a hobby."
  15. bergmef macrumors 6502a

    Sep 20, 2005
    Southeast of Baltimore, USA
    With his comments, I really doubt we will see a hardware upgrade this year. It's a shame, but they still got my money anyway. I have a mini to view movies and use the apple tv for tv shows/music/pictures.
  16. Flynnstone macrumors 65816


    Feb 25, 2003
    Cold beer land
    Universal Binaries

    PPC, x86, ... ARM.

    I would be surprised if there ISN'T a A4 power AppleTV in the lab.

    Remember when they switched (morphed) from PPC to x86. They have had OS X running on x86 since 10.0.
    Apple is very aware of cross platform. One of their strengths over Microsoft.
  17. SiliBear macrumors member

    Dec 3, 2007
    After reading what that exec had to say, I feel like I have no other choice but to give up on the hope of the Apple TV. I love the concept of what they do - moving all your video and audio files wirelessly to your connected device, but they are barely capable of this currently and it seems and they won't be improved materially (through hardware) anytime soon. I own two Apple TVs currently (as well as 2 iMacs, 2 MacBook pros, an airport extreme, and have purchased 5 iPhones - all within the past couple years) and was hoping to replace both existing Apple TVs and pick up one or two more (for a total of 4 new devices) if they did a hardware refresh. Not anymore.

    I officially quit caring about the product as of today, given the comments in that interview.

    I think our best hope is for some competitor product to come along which has similar functionality. I will pick that device up instead (time to restart my research). Further, I will likely slow and possibly halt all future video purchases from iTunes (movies and television series) which I had been making in anticipation of a newer and more fully capable Apple TV device coming "around the corner" over the past 2 years. Since the iTunes content won't be playable on non-apple devices, I don't see any reason to keep buying downloadable content from Apple any longer.

    I would like to pick up an iPad for a host of reasons...but a primary reason would be to watch movies and downloaded television programs, which would have come from iTunes. To be able to play any of my electronic files anywhere in my home on Apple TV, or on the road with my iPhone or preferably a future iPad purchase would be fantastic. I see the Apple TV as an outdated and essentially "broken" device in the chain that will, at least in my case, absolutely limit the amount of electronic content I will be willing to buy from iTunes any further. It will also, in all likelihood, keep me from buying an iPad since watching video on the go would be a primary use for one in my case.

    No apple tv update = no more reason to buy media (video at least) from iTunes.

    I'm disgusted.

    We're stuck with a 3 year old semi-p.o.s. with LOADS of untapped potential that just isn't ever going to be fully realized it seems. While I haven't had any of the connection or dropping issues people on these forums seem to regularly experience, I certainly have noticed synching issues after having used fast forward or rewind on HD video, suggesting that the hardware is struggling to keep up. I frequently have to get entirely out of a movie/show and then go back in just to get the video and audio to work properly again.

    The one thing that I have really marveled at since switching all my computing over to Apple products is that they "just work" the way you expect and want them to, solidly, with few rare exceptions. The Apple TV does NOT fit this profile. I can't help now but to change my opinion of it as a cute toy, but it is definitely not a solid product. I also would not suggest anybody bother purchasing one if they are thinking of doing so.

    If Apple can't get its hardware updated on this thing, it's just a waste. And so is planning for future television and movie downloads from iTunes to feed it.

    p.s., Sorry to sound so negative here but I really am severely disappointed that the Apple TV won't be made into something more than it currently is. I will probably still pick up a new MacBook Pro if the upcoming refresh seems worthwhile, I will certainly pick up a new 27'' iMac quad machine *after* a replacement is found for the ATI 4850 (it is over a year old), and will probably buy 2 more iPhones if they have speed boosts - but then my spending on anything Apple-related will probably come to a very, very long pause.

    Not refreshing the Apple TV hardware is a huge mistake not just because they won't sell as many Apple TV devices, but because it will also slow the adoption of downloadable video, will call into question purchases of home network servers for distribution of electronic media, will limit the need for "cloud" storage of your electronic media (why a server farm in North Carolina?) and will handcuff one of the strongest (though not all of the good reasons) to buy an iPad. Dumb, dumb, dumb.
  18. Winni macrumors 68040


    Oct 15, 2008

    I think that Apple will quit selling computers altogether, and the AppleTV will become their one and only backend for iPhones, iPods and iPads. So, yes, the AppleTV will get a better CPU and more disk space, and you will remote control it via an iPad application.

    In the future, only Linux geeks and software developers will still be buying real computers.

    Do I really believe this? Well, it's so like Orwell's 1984, that there actually is a high chance that Apple will go down this route sooner or later. Microsoft already owns the corporate world, so Apple's only chance is to try to own the living room. And that's where their focus has been for the last couple of years.
  19. dernhelm macrumors 68000


    May 20, 2002
    middle earth
    It wouldn't be all about power savings. Time capsule is plugged in, but it uses an ARM chip inside. This allows them to shrink the electronics required, worry less about heat dissipation, and reduce cost.

    AppleTV could do the same. The A4 chip will cost less than anything from Intel, and it would have an embedded GPU. The AppleTV could support all it's current functions, a 2TB hard drive, and still have enough oomph for a 1080p video. Not only that, but it would open up the possibility of a dev kit based on the iPhone OS to support the possibility of plugins for user-interaction (on screen widgets) or content.

    There are lots of good reasons for the AppleTV to move to the A4 processor. That doesn't mean that it will actually happen, but I wouldn't be surprised to see it at all.
  20. dagomike macrumors 65816

    Jun 22, 2007
    I think the only reason they would go A4 would be if they wanted to move it to the iPhone OS. Not sure I see the advantage there. Frankly I'd like to see a kick ass ATV with a full console size, rather than making it smaller and pretty. Most of all, I'm like to just to see the damn thing upgraded.
  21. iCreate macrumors member

    Sep 2, 2002
    Near Insanity
    I think Apple TV will eventually be another extended iPhone OS platform, with a more capable GPU and the ability to bring iPad or native games to the living room instead of being out there by itself.
  22. patsfan83 macrumors regular

    Apr 6, 2008
    Do you think Apple is really building a $1 Billion server farm for music only? Everyone knows the future is streaming video. This is a "hobby" while Internet speeds catch up and until construction of the farm is complete.

    The US will need average Internet speeds to be at least 10 mb/s for HD streaming. I pay for 10 mb/s service, average about 7-8 mb/s. An HD movie on AppleTV will cache in about 10-15 seconds, which is pretty good.

    The problem is the content. It's hard to convince the networks to come on board for fear of retaliation from cable providers.

    I'll sign up to stream anything from iTunes for $40/mo and ditch cable in a heartbeat.
  23. goobot macrumors 603


    Jun 26, 2009
    long island NY
    i dont think we will see a new :apple:tv for at least a year
  24. NoisyDude thread starter macrumors newbie

    Oct 29, 2009
    I totally agree! ... and I 'up the ante'

    I totally agree with you. The fact that Apple is building a big datacenter is an indication that they will be more involved in providing online services. However, I am not sure about the streaming piece. After all, this can be achieved best by using a CDN service where you can distribute the load and ensure a better experience for viewers (this is how they provide the service today too).

    I tend to believe that they will provide other services through this new datacenter: Possibly an iDisk service that is better than the current offering and closer or better than that offered by dropbox or similar. They may even improve the web hosting capability for their iWeb services and maybe even an XServer farm through a virtualized environment.

    I still think that the next iteration of the :apple:TV will use the A4 chip. In my mind, this makes total sense. They get their money's worth out of the investment in developing the chip (whatever it cost them). The OS may not be the iPad/iPhone OS, but rather a close cousin to Snow Leopard, but it would surprise me if they do not use this chip.

    In terms of features, I do not think they will incorporate a DVD/Blueray player... Apple is betting on delivering content electronically (streaming) and I believe they are on the right path. We've all seen the news about more bandwidth coming our way into our homes, so why not? This enables them to reduce their production costs and to quickly and easily fix any issues with content being delivered. If the studios and Apple play this right, they can also make a ton of money by delivering the content sooner, after the movies are out of the main theaters.

    I agree with all those that have posted on this forum that the content offered today for :apple:TV is limited and a bit too expensive compared to many alternatives (especially the rent-for-a-buck kiosks), but this medium needs only a few tweaks to be highly successful.

Share This Page