The Apple TV set-top box has vanished or been listed as out of stock at a number of major retailers, including Amazon.com, Best Buy, Wal-Mart, Target, and Buy.com (as reported by 9to5Mac), which strongly suggests that Apple is preparing to refresh the device in the coming weeks.
Apple’s popular set-top box currently only supports 720p output, but considering that the iPad 3 will likely feature a Retina display with greater than 1080p resolution, and that Apple is planning to bring AirPlay Mirroring for Macs in OS X Mountain Lion, an update to the Apple TV allowing 1080p content would seem to be a good move.
A ‘J33″ code name referring to a third-generation Apple TV was discovered in a developer beta of iOS 5.1, and further rumors have suggested that Apple may be preparing 1080p iTunes content to work with both the Apple TV and the forthcoming iPad 3.
The next-gen Apple TV is also rumored to possible feature Bluetooth 4.0 support, which would allow it to work with Bluetooth keyboards, and will likely run Apple’s next-gen A6 chip. The specific inclusion of AirPlay Mirroring support in Mountain Lion suggests that Apple still has plans for the Apple TV.
Combine all of the above factors with the fact that Tim Cook has stated on multiple occasions that the Apple TV is something he “can’t live without,” and the fact that so many retailers have run out of the devices at once (although they are still available from the online Apple Store), and it seems almost certain that new models are on the horizon.
Previous rumors have suggested that Apple may launch new models of the Apple TV alongside the iPad 3 on March 7th.