Apple TV gains its own shopping category in Apple's online store

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The most recent update to Apple's online store brought more than just Valentine's Day deals, as the company's Apple TV set-top streamer was promoted from accessory to top-level product category — fueling speculation that the box may soon see a major update.

Formerly grouped with the slumping iPod lineup, the Apple TV now shares top billing with its own "Shop Apple TV" entry in the store's topmost navigation menu. Like its siblings, the Apple TV's section featured dedicated areas for the device itself, accessories, and customer message boards alongside a dedicated slot in the store's refurbished section.

Whispers of a pending hardware and software refresh that would bring new capabilities to the device have grown steadily louder in recent days, as many now believe Apple will not attempt to push an Apple-branded television set but instead expand its living room push with a model similar to the current Apple TV.

Last week, a report surfaced indicating that Apple may be working on a gaming-focused update for the set-top box. The update would bring support for iOS games and Bluetooth game controllers alongside a possible fourth-generation hardware platform.

In addition to entirely new features like gaming, Apple is also believed to be working to add more live television content to the device. The company has reportedly been involved negotiations with content owners like ESPN and HBO in a bid to bypass traditional cable operators, and some have said Apple may be willing to become a virtual cable company themselves to complete the deals.

Apple's $360 million acquisition of Israeli computer vision startup PrimeSense is also seen as a stepping stone toward a new Apple TV product. Many Apple watchers believe PrimeSense's gesture recognition technology would form the basis of a new method of interacting with the product.

Monday's promotion could be a sign that such an update is imminent. A new rumor from 9to5Mac suggests that this is the case, and that Apple may be planning to combine the Apple TV with the AirPort Express wireless router which last saw a refresh in 2012.