updated 09:45 pm EST, Fri December 30, 2011
Adds abilities but can cause issues, void warranty
[Updated: video of Troughton-Smith demonstrating Mudkip's iOS window manager and apps on Apple TV] The untethered jailbreak for some iOS 5.0.1 devices has migrated into Seas0npass, a tool for jailbreaking the black (current model) Apple TV, resulting in the option of extra abilities on the $99 device, including the potential to run some iOS apps as demonstrated by hacker Steve Troughton-Smith. The updated Seas0npass works even with Apple TV software version 4.4.4, and third-party options give users the ability to play other video formats, implement custom Bluetooth options and more.
Troughton-Smith has used his own jailbroken Apple TV unit to achieve a springboard and launcher to the media device, and has even recently posted a photo (seen below) of the ability to run multiple iOS iPhone apps running side-by-side on the Apple TV. The Apple TV currently falls short of being a full iOS device in the sense of the iPad and iPhone, but its ability to run at least some iOS apps suggests that Apple may be planning on having future versions run iOS apps full-screen, eventually turning the Apple TV into a full iOS player.
In combination with the widespread expectation that the next iPad will be able to handle higher-than-HD resolutions, Apple could see the Apple TV or future Apple-branded televisions as being able to run iOS apps without Airplay, opening up a new market for iOS apps and adding significant functionality to Airplay and AirPrint-equipped future TVs. The ability of Apple TVs or Apple-branded televisions to run a full implementation of iOS may be what Apple co-founder Steve Jobs referred to as having "cracked" television integration.
FireCore, makers of Seas0npass, has posted a tutorial on jailbreaking the Apple TV on its website, based on the work of French hacker pod2G. Previously, the Apple TV would have to be connected to a computer to initiate the jailbreak, and would need to be re-jailbroken anytime the Apple TV unit lost power. The new untethered jailbreak can be easily re-initialized if needed.
Jailbreaking the Apple TV does pose a security risk and can cause issues with performance of the unit. Apple will of course not service Apple TV units that are jailbroken, as it voids the warranty. For those who like to experiment or explore the options available (such as non-iTunes video formats, custom RSS feeds or other video services such as BBC iPlayer), however, the new jailbreak provides a window of opportunity and perhaps a glimpse of things to come.