MediaMemo today reported that Apple has been shopping a $30/month, all you can watch TV service to the networks that would compete with Hulu and to a lesser extent cable. The service would be built into iTunes and run across all of Apple's products. To me this has tablet written all over it.
First of all, I'm not sure what Apple is doing with AppleTV. The hardware is ancient and the updates are anemic. A friend of mine asked a few weeks ago if Apple was just keeping the AppleTV around to sell people on tablet stuff without having to reveal to them the tablet. At first I laughed, but after that 3.0 update, I'm not so sure.
Also, Apple hasn't been very friendly to Sling on the iPhone and iPod touch. Could this be because they are planning their own TV service inside of iTunes on both Mac and on the iPhone? Everyone also thought there'd be aHulu iPhone app out by now. There isn't.
Apple also has a new very lightweight HTTP web streaming protocol that adjusts bitrates on the fly, depending on what kind of speed you are getting. Apple also released a new file format recently called iFrame that is 1/4 of 1080P. This size isn't going to impress anyone who wants to watch full length movies, but watching TV shows at this resolution (which is better than standard 480P) would be a good experience. Especially if the device had a screen bigger than an iPod, say around 10 inches?
That's right, I think this TV thing Apple is on is about the tablet. Would it be the killer app? Probably not, but it would certainly be a great addition to the tablet's package. Taking your TV on the road and watching your favorite shows outside or in the car would be the benefits. The anti-couch potato.
The timing is right too. Kafka says Apple is planning to bring out this Apple TV service early next year. Most people have been targeting the tablet for a early 2010 release as well.