∞ New Apple TV to be a Mac mini with Blu-ray

The Apple TV is one of those devices that has a lot going for it, but never really lived up to its potential. I think you’ll see that change in the next little while. Apple TVThe Apple TV allows you to watch videos and listen to music on your home entertainment system, from computers on your local network. You can also sync a computer to the device, so it will transfer all of the media to the Apple TV, allowing you to watch and listen without having the computer on.

This is a pretty slick system. I have two Apple TVs and use them quite often, especially when I miss one of my favorite shows. I just go on, search for the show I’m looking for and download the episode. Easy as that.

Movies, especially in the summer, are a big draw in my house. The ability to get new movies without having to leave the comfort of my home is a big plus for me.

Mac miniHowever, the amount of hacking on the Apple TV and the move to the Mac mini as a media center for some users has shown Apple that perhaps the real media center hardware should be the mini. (Chris Breen has done a comprehensive guide to turning a Mac mini into a media center at Macworld.)

With the Mac mini’s hardware and the Apple TV’s software, Apple has the best of both worlds. And that’s just what I think the next Apple media center will look like.

With an optional Blu-ray drive, users will be able to purchase a Mac mini complete with Apple TV software included. That means you can have a full media center, with the ability to burn DVD or Blu-ray disks.

Of course, with the Blu-ray and DVD support, you will also be able to watch movies just like you would from your home theater setup. The Apple TV software will allow you to do all the things you do now, like purchase shows and movies, but the hardware configuration takes it to the next level.

This would also explain the news over the weekend that iTunes 9 will support Blu-ray.

It would be nice to have built-in DVR functionality with the Apple TV, but that’s not crucial. Because you are using a Mac mini, it’s easy to install Elgato’s EyeTV and a TV tuner, which would turn your Mac mini/Apple TV hybrid into everything you wanted in a Mac media center.

  • Tuncer Deniz

    My biggest gripe with the AppleTV is the lack of content and how it’s presented. The first thing that REALLY ticks me off is that many new releases aren’t available for rental until a few months later. Sorry, I just don’t buy movies. I’m not paying $14.99 for a movie I’ll just watch once.

    Second. The lack of new rentals. 4-5 new movie rentals releases a month isn’t good enough. I’d like to see day-to-day releases on iTunes along with new DVD releases.

  • Jim Dalrymple

    I usually rent movies, which is around $4. Saves me time driving to the store to rent something. For me it’s all about convenience.

    • Syunny Guy

      I drive a couple miles to the campus video store, and rent three DVDs for three days for $1 apiece. They rent Blue Ray for the same price, so if Apple comes out with a Mac Mini with built-in a Blue Ray reader — I’m there.

      But if you watch films for plot, rather than for pimples, I think you don’t need Blue Ray. Not now — not never.

      My two cents, Sunny Guy

      • Brian

        You know you’re pretentious when you use words like “films.”

        • Sunny Guy

          You know you’re ignorant, when you post comments like that one. Maybe you were just having a bad day, eh?

          Sunny Guy

      • Eric

        Sorry Sunny Guy, but it’s not an either/or thing. Your argument would be the equivalent of “I’ll go with the college studnet’s art rather than Mondrian because the student’s themes are just as valid.

  • Eric

    Makes sense. Downloading a bunch of HD movies will fill up the hard drive in no time. But I’d rather use my TiVO HD to download HD content from TV, move it over to my Mac (via Toast) and burn a Blu-ray disc on my Mac Pro.

  • Jim Dalrymple

    Why would you rather go through all those steps?

    • Eric

      Because it only costs the price of the disc. Of course, I don’t do iTunes movies since I have a Netflix account.

      • Jim Dalrymple

        Ah, okay, that makes sense.

  • MacMini RULES!

    My living room ‘media center’ is a MacMini, connected to my LG 42″ LCD (DVI-HDMI cable adapter), I’ve gone through most/all offerings and you know which media ctr app I use? Vista Media Center (using Boot Camp). I’m not a big MS fan, but as far as media center offerings go, you have to admin, you can’t beat them, in any category: tv listings (and I’m in Canada), record/pause live television AND stream live tv to your xbox 360 console (yes, other than a gaming machine it also acts as a media center extender – watch, change channels, pause and stream live tv via our LAN in our home). The wife and kids love it ! As far as content goes? it’s all on a separate server (osx server), with terabytes of storage, the Vista media ctr. plays back all movie file formats (downloaded mkv for 720,1080 HD content easily, avi’s, divx, etc..). I love my MacMini 😉

  • HD Boy

    “…Because you are using a Mac mini, it’s easy to install Elgato’s EyeTV and a TV tuner, which would turn your Mac mini/Apple TV hybrid into everything you wanted in a Mac media center…”

    Not quite everything. Most people (though certainly not all) also would want a cable/satellite tuning option. Alternatively, Apple could have a plan in place to also offer content in downloadable form from a 150 different cable/satellite HD channels. The problem with this idea is that Apple needs a delivery system to challenge cable/satellite for HDTV — or a partner. Even then, how would Apple ever offer live Sports (too many exclusive contracts in place)?

  • Stew

    I emailed elgato who make the hd sat tv add on to mac mini and they responded saying it does not support 1.2 & 1.3 protocol that allows control of a motorised dish any suggestions?

  • GB in HK

    I think an arms race in the one-box-solution space is indeed just around the corner. Apple, with its iTunes ecosystem has the potential to dominate only if their product(s) also include Blu-ray playback, Tru2way cable-TV connectivity and PVR functionality. Anything less and most consumers will choose comparable offerings from Sony, Panasonic, Samsung, et al.

  • Jon

    A Mac Mini with a El Gato TV Tuner and Eye TV does not turn your TV into a full fledged Media Center. With those you only get Over the Air HD not subscription HD. Reason being is there is no Cable Card interface for computers currently. They all use Switched Digital Video to send video as well. Requiring a Tuner Adapter from your Cable Company which is not available in all areas.

    I have a Tivo HD and its essentially been a over priced paper weight for the last year till recently. Time Warner in my area had no Tuner Adapters out and everything they send is Switched Digital Video. Tivo HD talks one way for SDV to work your cable box has to talk both ways.

    MS Media Center people have been hit hard with this rolling out to all the cable companies.

    Perhaps Tru2way will solve this but as of right now there still barely even able to support Tivo users which are considerably bigger then any Apple TV user (own 2).

    To make a Apple TV work as a Media center it would require a Tru2way or a Cable Card slot and a Tuner Adapter.

  • joecab

    OK if this really happens, I finally will get an Apple TV. I’ve been meaning to get a BluRay player anyway. I’m sure Apple will add the drives to their computers but I never imagined they’d do it with Apple TV since tey want people downloading their movies anyway. I am surprised Apple hasn’t gone for some DVR functionality yet; does Vista come with anything similar?

  • Mike

    This is a really nice dream.


    Apple wants you to buy your content from Apple. Think iPod/iTunes. iPhone/App Store. Apple Hardware, Apple Content, Apple Experience. Apple will not undermine that which they have worked so hard to build.

    When an updated box shows up it will be an Apple TV interface, probably updated. But Absolutely No Blu-Ray or Optical drive, DVR, Cable-Card, or anything else that could possibly compete with iTunes.

    Apple strategy from the first 5GB iPod has been about monopolizing and monetizing the content. All that content has and will continue come from Apple over the internet.

    OK, back to your dreams…

  • Rick

    Jim, Sorry to go off-topic, but your Recent Articles go back to August 6th. I haven’t been to the site for a while, so I want to find the articles from the weeks before. How do I find articles from August 5th and so on?

    • Jim Dalrymple

      Rick, just use the menus up top for now. I’ll have the page navigation fixed soon.

  • Tim H.

    NVIDIA claims BluRay playback as a capability of the 9400M, so that part is taken care of. The expense of a slot loading BDROM/DVD-R mech might be an obstacle, and The Steve will have something to say here. Otherwise, will the Apple TV software run in a VM under 10.6, or will those capabilities be rolled into 10.6 on the new mini?

  • Jim – You had a mental lapse – drop that damed apostrophe in the sentence, “Apple has the best of both world’s …” Yuck. t’s been bugging me since last week.

    • Jim Dalrymple

      Indeed I did. Fixed now. Thanks 🙂

  • Yes that would be nice. Do you now anything about the release date and the price?

  • Pingback: Analyst expects DVR, subscription in Apple TV, Apple connected television | The Loop()

  • spiffyone

    While extending AppleTV software to Mac Mini sounds like a good idea, for Apple the best route is not to extend the product in that manner. Integrated Blu Ray? Then why would users rent/buy digital content off of iTunes? And digital download is the future as Apple sees it.

    With that in mind, rather than extending AppleTV style usability to Mac Mini, I see Apple extending iPhone/touch usability (the App Store) to AppleTV. Think about it. Release an open SDK, ala iPhone/touch, allow different types of apps made (particularly games, which are a big money earner in the App Store), and open yourself to more and different types of consumers. Apple’s competition isn’t really TiVo boxes or Media Center PCs, but stuff like XBox 360 and PS3, which allow things like Netflix downloads to a MUCH larger consumer market.

    If the next AppleTV, with all new hardware, uses similar architecture to iPhone/touch, then all the better. One need not have an x86 based processor when using a device for multimedia entertainment. An ARM CPU would suffice for HD content (and, indeed ARM processors decode HD content already). Add in a spec’d up PowerVR GPU (PowerVR GPUs are used in iPhone/touch), and you’ve got enough power for HD content, and a GPU that can handle games and other graphic intensive software. Better still if it’s all multicore (multicore ARM CPU, multicore PowerVR GPU).

    By using a similar hardware base as that in iPhone/touch, but spec’d up, Apple can use AppleTV as a sort of testing ground for future iPhone/touch internal components when they shrink in size over time. And it would be quite a deal less expensive in cost to boot.

  • spiffyone

    Oh, and using the iPhone/touch as a Remote/controller SEEMS like a good idea…but it really isn’t.


    Extra cost for the end consumer. It may be SUPPORTED, but it won’t be STANDARD. And that’s a big issue. However, I could see Apple making a new standard Remote that has a multitouch interface and accelerometer, and/or possibly using an IR sensor (ala Nintendo’s Wii Remote, a.k.a WiiMote), but not the costlier internal components of iPhone/touch hardware itself. And if they include a camera, ala Microsoft’s upcoming Natal motion sensing camera system for XBox…. Imagine: using it for controlling the interface, but also for posting Youtube vids, which is one thing analysts were suggesting was part of the future of AppleTV a while back.

  • miguel

    Hi there,

    I am a total ignorant on most of this, but I was thinking about buying and using a mac mini to conect to my TV/HT projector. The problem I found is I had to buy a DVD/Blue ray player on top of the mac mini, making the whole set up not only more expensive but also a lot more messy connections and cable wise. Then I had an illumination and googled “mac mini with blue ray”, and voila!!! I found this post. I think it is a perfect solution. Everything you need in one (small) piece. omen are going to love it 🙂

    Regards from sunny spain.

  • Frank

    I don’t rent from appletv because old releases still rent for $3.99 when they should be like $0.99

  • skrames

    Make it double wide to also make it a "Time Capsule." Now that would be a media center.

  • ElGatoHater

    ElGato Sucks. Use SageTV.

  • Tukom

    As Blu-Ray movies get more and more common, it would be great to be able to view them on my Mac Mini Media Center. There are already Mac compatible Blu-Ray optical drives, but you need to rip the Blu-Ray disc first to your computer and then play the movie using a specific player. At least I do not have extra 30-50 gigabytes for each movie I want to watch on the Mac Mini. Looking forward to get a native support for the Blu-Ray discs! http://mymediaexperience.com

  • Only thing that I finds good about Apple TV is its design. All other things and features in Apple TV are available in other similar devices and they are much cheaper than Apple TV.

  • Actually Apple TV is worth every penny, especially if you don’t only use it as a replacement for your movie rentals but as a complete media center. With the blue ray compability, there are no more wishes of mine unheard.