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Apple lets us in on its iTV secret

Despite a name that sounds rather like a terrestrial TV channel that's seen better days, there's an air of optimism in the way Apple's iTV device is being talked up.

Apple CEO Steve Jobs took the wraps off the iTV, a device developed to bridge the gap between iTunes movies, iPods and that huge TV in your front room during the company's Showtime announcement.

"We usually keep things corralled until we ship them, but we think this completes the story, so we decided to go ahead and show it to you today," Jobs explained.

The gadget, which has the working name of iTV, is apparently scheduled to ship in the first quarter of 2007, when it will cost $299 (about £160). It resembles an iPod mini, but looked to be one-third the size.

The device lets users stream content from their movie collections wirelessly, and hosts multiple connectivity options so users can watch those flicks on their TV. It's controlled using the Apple Remote.

The Apple boss said: "You know Apple's in your den now, right? iTunes is running on a Mac, hopefully, or maybe a PC, but Apple's in your den. We're in your living room with iTV driving a big screen. Apple's in your car, and of course, Apple's in your pocket with the iPod. I hope this gives you a little idea of where we are going."

When users navigate their collections, Jobs confirmed the device would let users read relevant information about what movies they want to watch.

"These are the same movies I downloaded that I can play on my iPod, computer and now on my TV," Jobs added. "We're very, very happy with how this has turned out," he said.

Movies will be streamed in the new 640x480 resolution that Jobs claimed to be "near DVD quality". Critics claim it's around the same range as VGA.

Because the device offers both wireless and ethernet-based internet access, Apple has added another little feature to the gadget. It can navigate to the QuickTime-based movie preview store to let users watch those previews on their telly.

Users can also watch video podcasts on the machines. Demonstrating this, Jobs said: "We can now watch podcasts on a TV – you know, these can sometimes have a large dynamic range of professionalism, but they are a good way to keep up with what is going on.

"We think it complete the picture here, so now I can download content for my iPod computer and big-screen TV."

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