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Tuesday, September 12, 2006, 02:00 pm PT (05:00 pm ET)

Apple previews iTV set-top device

Media junkies will have another item from Apple on their wish list when 2007 rolls around: iTV, or at least, the set-top device currently being referred to as iTV.

True to last week's whispers, Steve Jobs took advantage of the "It's Showtime" media event to offer a glimpse of the new product, which is scheduled to ship in the first quarter of 2007. Boasting a slew of connectors, from the computer-centric USB, ethernet, and 802.11 to yester-year's RCA video connectors and today's more advanced HDMI and optical audio, Jobs & Co. are putting every television in your household in Apple's cross-hairs.

Mimicking the Mac mini's enclosure, the iTV (Jobs said it will be renamed later) features the same shape and aluminum accents, but at less than half the height. It will also sell for half of what a low-end Mac mini goes for, or $299, making media streaming a more affordable endeavor.

In a demonstration to the invited guests at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Theater in San Francisco, Jobs showed off the new iTV, which features a more polished Front Row-like interface, undoubtedly a sign of the improvements yet to come to other Front Row-supported Macs when Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard ships next year.

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The iTV will seemingly pull content from other computers on a network. Rather than simply list what media one has access to, as is currently the case with Front Row, Apple's media hub will go a step further, listing a movie's synopsis, stars, and cover, for example.

While Apple is hoping the iTV will encourage more customers to purchase television programming and movies from the iTunes Store, the iTV will not be limited to playing purchased media only. Photo slideshows with accompanying music will be be supported, for example, as is the case with current Front Row Macs.

New iPod shuffle