Blu-Ray toting Apple TV incoming?

[intro]Apple's set-top box is rumoured to be getting an upgrade in the new year - and the whispers are that it may include a hi-def optical


As we hurtle towards Christmas, so Apple-watchers start chattering about their own mid-winter celebration - Macworld San Francisco, which takes place in January.

Last year saw the launch of the Apple TV set-top box, which streams music and video from Mac or PC to your TV - but its arrival was eclipsed by the announcement of the iPhone.

So how about this year? Well, alongside the inevitable rumours of a flash-based ultraportable laptop/tablet Mac, there are also whispers of an upgrade to Apple TV that might make it more appealing to UK users, who have until now been limited by the lack of video to download through the iTunes Store.

Macosrumours is reporting that Apple is developing a new flagship Apple TV with a larger hard drive and a hi-def optial drive. They don't know which format it will support, but given Apple's (notional) support of Sony's standard, it seems likely that it would be a Blu-Ray drive. Maybe.

But I'm not convinced by these rumours - after all, Blu-Ray drives are expensive and Apple TV is a budget device that is struggling to find a market. 

I think Apple will continue to develop AppleTV because the natural development of the iTunes Store is to move away from just selling overpriced, low quality movies (or, in the UK, overprices, low quality TV shows) and to embrace the burgeoning world of hi-def video rentals - and Apple TV is the best way to get those downloads off a computer and onto your TV.

Microsoft is already in this market with its Xbox Live video download store, and Sony will no doubt be joining in soon. Apple can't afford to be too far behind.

The irony, of course, is that Sony, Microsoft and Apple are all long-term supports of hi-def discs - any yet their download services are likely to kill both Blu-Ray and HD-DVD . After all, if you can download a hi-def movie for a few pounds, why would you spend £25 on a disc?

Read our Apple TV review