Former Apple employee develops $999 Unity TV stand/home theater system

A former Apple audio engineer has developed Unity, a TV stand with built-in speakers, Blu-ray player, and Internet streaming capabilities,
Written by Sean Portnoy, Contributor

First, an ex-Apple engineer launches a device that revolutionizes the thermostat (a.k.a. the Nest). Now, another former Apple employee has his sights on upending another product category that the Cupertino giant hasn't touched.

Todd Beauchamp, who worked in Apple's audio realm -- helping develop the iPod's white earbuds -- has broken away to develop Unity, a TV stand with a twist. With built-in speakers and Internet streaming capabilities, Unity hopes to offer one-stop shopping for accessories once you purchase your new HDTV.

Beauchamp tells Fortune.com that Unity stems from his disappointment with ever-shrinking sound bars, which he claims offer correspondingly smaller sound. He believes he's corrected that flaw, offering an integrated device complete with full 5.1 surround sound and the ability to stream Netflix and Hulu and play Blu-ray discs (no built-in Wi-Fi, however).

Unity was first shown off at this year's CES, and our sister site CNET came away generally impressed with the audio output.

I wouldn't exactly call Unity's design "elegant" (Beauchap's term), as the subwoofer essentially does double duty, also serving as the connection between the unit's base and its top, which can hold up to a 60-inch set. (Clever may be a more fitting word.) At $999, the price tag also keeps the market for Unity somewhat limited, though it certainly is priced competitively when you consider the cost of its components (stand, speaker system, Internet-enabled Blu-ray player) purchased separately.

Unity is slated to be released sometime in the middle of the year. What do you think of the design? Will you consider it if you're buying a new TV or to replace your current stand and home theater system? Let us know in the Comments section below.

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