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Jailbroken AppleTV might shed light on future of Apple computers

Original Mac Mini vs. new AppleTV

We’ve been able to verify that the Limera1n does work on AppleTVs (TUAW also) though no apps run on it and OpenSSH isn’t yet available. But soon, you’ll be able to punch though into your AppleTV box and have a pretty basic Unix machine with a command line interface and a significantly powerful GPU.

So what kind of computer do you get for $99 (and $64 for Apple’s N+1).

…or what fun toys does this have inside to exploit?  From the teardown we know it has Bluetooth and FM.   We also know from its specs that it has 10/100 Ethernet, Wifi N, USB and 720P HDMI video out (1280×720) which also carries digital audio.  Internally it has a 1GHz ARM Cortex A8, 256MB of RAM and 8GB of storage.

With some significant hacking, these could make fantastic little DNS servers or Firewall/VPN/Routers.  It shouldn’t be too hard to turn an Ethernet wired AppleTV into an Airport base station for instance.  It might be a bit harder (or not) to turn it into a fantastic little NAS with the USB port on the back.  At $99/ea these are going to be great hacking toys.

But why stop there?   These are nearly the desktops of 5 years ago.  Look at the specs of the original Mac Mini: 1.25 GHz Processor, 256MB RAM, bigger hard drive (hey it is all in the Cloud/NAS these days anyway!).  Same Ethernet, same USB.  Different, but better video port.

With the right tweaks, Apple could build a nice little cheap desktop or laptop computer with this platform right now.  Perfect for the office terminal or the un-tech-savvy parents out there who are just browsing the web and looking at email.  In fact, it is going to be really hard for Apple to avoid the temptation of turning Microsoft on its face (if Google doesn’t beat them to it with ChromeOS or Android desktop) with iOS as a large screen terminal/keyboard computer.

The AppleTV is as green as computers get with a 6 Watt power draw. 10 (!!!) of these Apple TVs use the same amount of power as a single 60 Watt light bulb.  Think about that.  Most desktops use 60-250 Watts of electricity so that’s 10-40 times more electricity per computer.  If the billion desktops on Earth moved to this type of ARM device, we’d save some electricity.

Think about next year’s specs: 1GB RAM 64GB of Flash storage and 1.5GHz Multi-core processor.  That might make a good MacBook Air replacement?

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