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Thursday, February 16, 2012, 10:30 pm PT (01:30 am ET)

Apple TV disappears from BestBuy.com as refresh rumors swirl

Best Buy is no longer selling the Apple TV on its website, prompting speculation that a new model from Apple is soon to arrive.

Though BestBuy.com carried Apple's set-top box as recently as the 2011 holiday season, the device was nowhere to be found on the retailer's website as of early Friday.

AppleInsider contacted the company's sales division to inquire about stock of the Apple TV. A Best Buy salesperson was unable to say when exactly the device had been removed from the website's listings. "I don't recall seeing them for a while," he said.

"At this point in time, it doesn't look like we'll be getting [the Apple TV] back," the representative said after performing an inventory check.

An AppleInsider reader reported having a similar experience on Thursday, noting that a Best Buy employee checked inventory in all stores and found that they were all out of stock. Apple does, however, continue to list the Apple TV as "In Stock" on its website.

Best Buy no Apple TV


The disappearance of the Apple TV from Best Buy's inventory comes as a surprise because the big-box retailer was one of the first to carry the device when it first arrived in 2007. The original Apple TV got off to a promising start, but the product has yet to become more than a "hobby" for Apple.

Though a second-generation refresh of the device jumpstarted sales in 2010, Apple CEO Tim Cook said at an investment conference earlier this week that revenues from Apple TV are still a tiny fraction of those generated by the iPhone, iPad or Mac.

Apple TV


He also pointed out that Apple's decision to direct resources to the Apple TV was unusual because the company doesn't normally "do hobbies." According to the executive, the company sees potential for something larger to eventually develop from the device.

Many have speculated that Apple's plans for expanding its Apple TV platform involve a full-fledged television set. Multiple reports have suggested that the company has begun building prototypes for a connected TV, with one even claiming that Canadian telecoms Rogers and BCE are testing the set in their labs.

Best Buy actually made headlines about an Apple television set earlier this month when a speculative customer survey was leaked because it contained references to a 42-inch iOS-based HDTV from Apple. The company responded by pointing out that the survey was a "routine offer effectiveness survey" conducted by a research partner and was strictly hypothetical.

Sales of the second-generation Apple TV reached a record 1.4 million units in the most recent quarter roughly half of the 2.8 million units sold during the previous fiscal year, which ended last September.

Apple clearly still has big plans for the Apple TV, as the company announced that it will bring the AirPlay Mirroring feature to its Mac computers with the release of OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion this summer. The feature will allow users to wirelessly stream from their Macs to an HDTV via the Apple TV.

AirPlay


With rumors swirling that Apple is readying Retina Display versions of both its iPad and MacBook Pro, some have speculated that the Apple TV is due for a refresh to upgrade video support from a maximum resolution of 720p to 1080p.

AppleInsider reported last year that Apple was investigating 1080p HD+ content for its iTunes movie store. People familiar with the matter said Apple already has the backend in place to serve up 1080p video files, adding that consumer connection speeds are the biggest bottleneck at present. The arrival of AirPlay Mirroring for Mac could address some of these issues, though, as users could download the files to their computers ahead of time and then stream them to the Apple TV, rather than directly streaming them over the Internet.

Given that the second-generation Apple TV is powered by the A4 chip, it's possible that Apple could skip a generation and jump to the A6 processor for the rumored next-generation Apple TV. The company is expected to unveil the new chip alongside the third-generation iPad in early March. Reports have differed on whether the A6 will be quad-core or dual-core, but most are in agreement that the chip will see a significant boost in graphics capability and overall speed.