Apple released its latest, third-generation Apple TV in March, yet demand for the earlier version is through the roof. In fact, the second-gen device sells online for $150 more than its original price. Usually, the price of older Apple products falls when Cupertino releases its latest and greatest. What gives? The market is speaking, and this is what it's saying: We want a jailbroken Apple TV.
The newer Apple TV is restricted to the apps that Apple supplies for it. A jailbreak would open it up to third-party software and the Web at large. Apparently a solution is in the works (despite reports published last week claiming that no developers were working on it), but it isn't available yet.
So prospective customers who want access to a wider range of programs than Apple allows have a choice: Pay $99 and wait for a hack to surface, or spend up to $280 for an older, less capable unit that runs software that has been modified - without the manufacturer's authorization - to show pretty much anything available on the Internet.
It may not be a mainstream thing, but for people who want it, jailbreaking is apparently worth a hefty premium.
Why Jailbreak the Apple TV?
What makes a jailbroken Apple TV so compelling? For one thing, Apple TV is substantially more limited than the company's other devices. iPods, iPhones and iPads run an operating system with access to a third-party apps via the App Store, but the Apple TV is limited to a handful of pre-installed apps, a paltry selection compared to those that come with competing streaming boxes from Roku and Boxee. Apple added Hulu Plus only recently, two years after that service launched.
Jailbreaking the Apple TV allows users to browse the Web and install third-party media-center software like XMBC and Plex. It vastly expands the amount of content you can access from your Apple TV without jeopardizing any of the device's existing functionality.
AirPlay + iPad Makes Apple TV Jailbreaks Obsolete
While the Apple TV's content selection has been very limited, the company's AirPlay technology is changing that. AirPlay allows users to mirror their iPads and other iOS devices to the big screen to stream a much broader selection of videos. Essentially, anything that can load on an iPad or iPhone can wind up on your TV screen via Apple TV. If the streaming box has a killer feature, this is it.
And the company may have more compelling solutions in store to the problem of Apple TV's walled garden. Rumors of an Apple-branded HDTV have largely subsided as the launch of the new iPhone nears, but many analysts and Apple experts expect the company to release a TV set in the future.
Apple could push out a major software update to the Apple TV in September, perhaps opening a TV-focused App Store. This is, of course, speculation, but any update to the device's software could change the game.
Meanwhile, if you're itching for an Apple TV that's free of manufacturer-imposed limitations, it's available. Just be prepared to pay up.