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Apple TV teardown shows true potential

A teardown of Apple's diminutive set-top box has revealed that the future of the video streaming device could be very bright indeed.

The inquisitive souls at iFixit have taken the tools to Apple's $99 box of tricks and have unearthed Apple TV's deepest secrets.

It's no secret that Apple considered the first Apple TV as a marginal project, with Steve Jobs even half-jokingly describing the first iteration as "a hobby". But now it seems that the Cupertino company is serious about getting into the living rooms of Mac fans everywhere with its hockey puck-sized device.

iFixit's wanton vandalism reveals that Apple has taken none of the usual measures to prevent prying eyes from peeking inside. There are no tricky breakaway tabs to overcome, and no arcane security screws to baffle the toolbox. Entry to the gadget's innards being easily achieved with the judicious use of a spudger (a narrow bladed palette knife will do the job).

With the bottom case cover open, a couple of common Phillips screws need to be removed to reveal the main system board, and this is where the Apple TV starts to reveal it's potential.

The first thing to note is that a group of unpopulated solder pads near the edge of the logic board appears to be a perfect match for Apple's 30-pin dock connector. Whether this means a later version of the TV device will feature the familiar port, or the board will be used in another device, is open to debate.

The main board also features the exact same A4 processor as the iPad, the same 256MB of system RAM as the iPad, and a whopping 8GB of NAND flash memory which is pretty extraordinary for a device which was rumoured to have no on-board storage.

Even more intriguing is the fact that nestled next to the NAND chip is another empty slot which could well be filled with even more solid state storage.

What all of this means, of course, is that later iterations of Apple TV could well open up the machine to the vast library of iOS4 applications and games. In fact, the jailbreaking community is already making noises about the potential ability to run iOS4 Apps on the current model with some judicious hackage.

Imagine a set-top box not much bigger than a packet of fags (including the integrated power supply) which can play back HD video, browse the full Internet, run business applications and thousands of top quality games for less than a hundred bucks!

Oh... hang on. It's already here.