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Sunday, September 13, 2009, 09:55 pm PT (12:55 am ET)

Apple's TuneKit iTunes LP format appears aimed at Apple TV

The iTunes LP album and iTunes Extras movie-enriching bonus material bundles Apple introduced as a new feature of iTunes 9 are built using a new TuneKit JavaScript framework and appear aimed to deliver new big screen content to Apple TV.

The new iTunes interactive media content formats are built using open web standards: HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, using a new framework Apple calls TuneKit. The new media authoring framework is referenced repeatedly within the iTunes Extra component files.

Similar to Apple's use of the SproutCore JavaScript framework to build its MobileMe web apps, TuneKit provides media developers with a familiar JavaScript framework for creating interactive bonus materials. TuneKit, like SproutCore, proves that a proprietary middleware runtime plugin such as Adobe Flash or Microsoft Silverlight is simply unnecessary to deliver this kind of interactive media content, thanks in part to rapid advances in JavaScript rendering engine optimization.

Apple's new TuneKit is also much easier to develop for than the complex specifications involved with DVD and Blu-Ray disc authoring, and lacks the "bag of hurt" associated with licensing issues that Steve Jobs a year ago predicted would hold back Blu-Ray adoption.

Apple TV written all over it

Even more interesting is the evidence that Apple developed the new media packages with HDTVs in mind. For starters, the content is designed for a 1280x720 resolution. That means it's too big to play back on Apple's mainstream 13" MacBook Pro without entering full screen mode or scaling down to fit the screen available within the normal iTunes playback window.

The native resolution exactly fits the HDTV output of Apple TV, however, and would even work when scaled down to its standard definition 480p display. It wouldn't work so well the old TVs that only accept S-Video or composite video inputs however, the very type Apple made no efforts to support on Apple TV even though its hardware had the innate capacity to deliver a composite signal.

Even more telling is the discovery that the iTunes content files reference the HTML meta tags "hdtv-fullscreen" and "hdtv-cursor-off." While the content packages currently require iTunes 9 on a Mac or PC for playback, these discoveries not only indicate that support for Apple TV is in the works, but suggest that the content was created specifically for it.

Apple hasn't dramatically updated the Apple TV software since the "Take Two" 2.0 firmware was released at Macworld Expo in January 2008. The next major update is expected to incorporate features of Snow Leopard, including QuickTime X and its HTTP Live Streaming protocol.

TuneKit HDTV