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For the first time in years, all eyes are on the Apple TV.

Apple’s tiny media gadget is due for an upgrade soon, and many are expecting some big changes. Among them, Apple is apparently testing Airport Express router functionality right within the Apple TV, as well a built-in cable TV tuner (or similar functionality) for controlling your cable box, reports 9to5Mac.

News of the potential new features comes on the heels of reports from last week about a gaming focus and an app store for the new Apple TV.

Why would you need a router within the Apple TV? Aside from being a way to reduce clutter, it would give the Apple TV direct access to your Internet connection, which could help to avoid buffering and other slowdown problems current Apple TV users experience.

This is just a guess, but I think Apple may be attempting to improve the performance of its AirPlay streaming functionality by bundling a router in the Apple TV. The technology allows you to stream high-quality music, video, and entire screens from your iOS and Mac devices. It’s amazing when it works, but it’s also notoriously fickle on Wi-Fi networks. If the Apple TV itself were the router, AirPlay performance issues could disappear entirely.

It’s also not surprising that Apple is considering some TV integration with the Apple TV — that’s one of the most intriguing aspects of Microsoft’s Xbox One, and it’s the ticket to owning the living room experience for many consumers. It’s unclear if Apple is developing a way to use the Apple TV itself as a TV tuner or as a way to remotely control your existing cable box (the latter option is a much easier solution to implement).

And, yes, it would certainly be ironic if Apple ended up baking in one of the features that made Google TV so intriguing.

Apple has also reorganized its online store to highlight the Apple TV as a product line, a move that makes it easy for the company to throw in new models when they’re eventually announced. Previously, you had to dig a bit to find it.

Even though Apple has notoriously considered the Apple TV a “hobby” product, the recent addition of new video channels and the proliferation of iOS devices out there make it a potentially powerful platform. You’ll likely be able to use your iPhone and iPad to control more games on your television (some already support this), and now that Apple has opened up the floodgates for Apple TV apps, you can expect plenty more third-party developers to take advantage of it.


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