If you're looking for another reason to love the new second-generation Apple TV, here's one: it's eminently hackable -- according to early word from developers.
Steven Troughton-Smith discovered that iOS applications can be installed on the new Apple TV with a slight modification to identify them as Apple TV-compatible according to Gizmodo (via MacRumors). The problem is that the Apple TV lacks a launcher to run such apps.
iOS developer Matthias Ringwald tells Erica Sadun at TUAW that it shouldn't be hard to get his custom Bluetooth stack running on Apple TV once it's jailbroken. "I managed to hook the communication between BlueTool and BT chipset before, so I can record that exchange on iPad which sets up the Bluetooth chipset and just do a playback. Chances are good."
Ringwald (a.k.a "King of BTstack") built a BTstack Synergy Client "which works with Synergy to accept remote events and synthesize them on a jailbroken iPad or iPhone." This allows JB iOS devices to communicate with external bluetooth devices including keyboards, mice, Wiimotes, and Bluetooth GPS dongles.
Sadun notes that "frappliances" also have potential as a way to install third-party apps on new Apple TV:
...developer Dustin Howett has been keeping track of Apple TV's white list, which limits what Front Row appliances or "frappliances" (think "apps for Apple TV") can be run on the system. He's continuing to work on his open source beigelist project for the new iOS-based Apple TV 2. Beigelist promises to allow custom frappliances to be installed and run, to offer a wider range of end-user functionality.
Although progress is being made and the new Apple TV is sure to eventually succumb to the jailbreakers, it won't be as easy as it was on the first-gen Apple TV's. The original Apple TV basically runs Mac OS X Tiger and can run software like Safari and Perian out of the box, whereas the new Apple TV runs iOS "with its strengthened watch dogs and white lists.
Sadun advises early adopters to "be patient" noting that firmware updates reset progress and "you're likely to see slow, steady development for the new device with as many regular steps backs as leaps forward."
Steve Jobs hinted that an App Store for the Apple TV could debut when the time is right but Apple doesn't have time to rest on its laurels. Google is planning to begin offering Google TV service later this month and it's expected to run apps from the Android Market by early 2011.
What about you? Apple TV or Google TV?