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Apple TV makeover looming?

A new version of Apple TV will be intended for streaming video and will be based on the iPhone OS and chip.

Is Apple TV about to move beyond its experimental "hobby" phase?

According to what some anonymous sources have told Engadget, the answer is yes.

On Friday, the gadget blog posted a report of what sounds like a detailed makeover of Apple TV in its current incarnation. The new device will reportedly be based on iPhone OS 4 software, including the homegrown A4 chip; have 16GB of local flash storage; come in a much smaller casing (reportedly the size of an "iPhone without a screen"); have just a few ports; and cost $99.

Apple TV

It's also supposedly going to stream 1080p video from the cloud directly to the device, instead of buying and storing all content locally.

Apple TV currently uses a stripped-down version of Mac OS X, comes with a 160GB hard drive, and looks like a standard set-top box for the living room. And it currently costs $229. So the new rumored device would be quite a departure from the current hardware and software.

But it would be a good departure. What's described above is basically what people have been asking for. Plus, with the rise of Netflix, customers have gotten far more comfortable with streaming content rather than owning it.

What these sources are saying also lines up with what CNET reported in March: that Apple had approached major film studios about enabling iTunes customers to store their content on its servers.

The plan included being able to access movies and TV content from a variety of Web-connected devices. We also know Apple bought streaming Web music site in December because it wanted access to the service's streaming technology.

Again, the report comes from anonymous sources, but it's believable. Especially since rival Google is marshaling its own hardware partners to push into the living room with Google TV.