• iTunes in the living room? Really this time?

    The talk of "convergence" - the unification of computers, set-top boxes, and mobile devices - has been around for a while. And for the most part it's been pure vapor. However, there's reason to believe that if anyone can do it, it's Apple.

    There's an increasing crescendo of rumormongering - most of it emanating from Piper Jaffray research analyst Gene "Herman" Munster - of a new Apple TV release on September 9. You remember Apple TV, right? Everybody's favorite WTF? device has been sort of hanging around waiting for its killer app. iTunes downloads and Flickr galleries, obviously, were not it.

    Munster thinks the announcement will involve a DVR, which Dan Dilger from AppleInsider thinks would be a terrible idea. More interestingly, Munster has suggested a subscription on-demand service, like Hulu or Netflix.

    A tantalizing hint comes in Snow Leopard's support for HTTP Live Streaming, which does an end-run around closed formats like Real and Microsoft's ActiveX streaming. Like Shoutcast, it uses a simple HTTP stream, unlike RTSP streams which are often blocked by firewalls. It allows multiple versions of a clip, so both the high-speed home broadband users as well as the strap-hanger on a train with an iPhone who has only EDGE signal can watch the same video. And the open standard creates an opportunity for home-brew broadcasters to create and stream their own content.

    It's almost a sure thing that any Apple TV upgrade will include HTTP Live Streaming. If the engineers and marketing Jedi play this right, there could be a significant addition to the Mac/iPhone/iPod/Apple TV ecosystem that could make things very interesting.

    And I might even buy a TV set.
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