Apple will reportedly release a new Apple TV device alongside its next-generation iPad, presumably called the iPad 3. The latest report comes from 9 to 5 Mac, which sites reliable sources familiar with Apple's upcoming product [releases], which makes sense given that Apple began pulling Apple TVs from big box retailers like Best Buy and Amazon in early February.

A customer was inquiring about an Apple TV, said a source from Best Buy. However, right now we are out of stock (which hasn't happened since I started). Not only were we out of stock, but also I was unable to order one from our product ordering system (OMS). Product was listed as currently unavailable. From prior experience, this usually is associated with a product that is being discontinued.

The New Apple TV

The new Apple TV will reportedly feature the newest version of Bluetooth, called Bluetooth Smart (4.0). Apple previously integrated Bluetooth Smart into its new iPhone 4S, and has also added the function to the latest iterations of the MacBook Air laptops and Mac Mini computers. Leveraging Bluetooth 4.0 technology, Apple could potentially implement motion-sensitive controls and even Siri onto its TV platform. 

Bluetooth Smart devices are designed to gather a specific type of information - are all the windows on my house locked, what is my insulin level, how much do I weigh today? - and send it to a Bluetooth Smart Ready device, Bluetooth wrote in a press release. Examples include heart-rate monitors, blood-glucose meters, smart watches, window and door security sensors, key fobs for your car, and blood-pressure cuffs-the opportunities are endless.

By integrating IEEE 802.11 a/b/g and single-stream 802.1 n (MAC/baseband/radio), as well as an FM radio receiver and transmitter, Bluetooth Smart can sync with wireless technologies, such as Apple TV, in about 6 milliseconds -- almost instantaneously. If Apple can find a way for Bluetooth Smart to get along with Apple's virtual assistant Siri, the two might both appear in the upcoming version of Apple TV.

But even if Siri doesn't make it to the next Apple TV, there's a great chance Apple will upgrade the set-top platform to be compatible with 1080p HD. Starting late last year, Apple reportedly asked several movie studios to submit content to the iTunes Store in 1080p.

Thus far, 1080p HD content has largely eluded users of Apple products, with HD versions of videos on the company's digital download service maxing out 720p (1280 x 720) and chief executive Steve Jobs balking at adoption of Blu-ray on Macs due to licensing complications and other challenges that he said threatened to translate into a 'bag of hurt.' But that could begin to change later this year, as a handful of feature films being submitted to the iTunes Store for a release in the September and October timeframe are being sent with documentation for an optional 1920 x 1080 resolution, according to people familiar with the matter.

The iPhone 4S can already shoot movies and stills in 1080p HD, and the iPad 3 will also reportedly feature a 2048 x 1536 true HD display that looks, according to a source who spoke to The New York Times, truly amazing. It would only make sense to endow the Apple TV with next-level HD.

Apple has reportedly built two new chips -- a dual-core A5X chip and a quad-core A6 chip -- which was originally reported back in November when the iOS 5.1 beta release showed codal references to both chips. In all likelihood, the A5X chip is intended to power the new Apple TV, while the heavy-duty A6 chip will power the bright and brilliant iPad 3.

The New iPad 3

Apple will likely unveil the new Apple TV when it decides to unveil the iPad 3, which will reportedly occur on March 7, according to iMore's editor-in-chief Rene Ritchie, who cites sources who have been reliable in the past. Ritchie has a solid track record for accurate reporting, particularly with Apple news and release dates. Last August, Ritchie correctly reported Apple's next iPhone would be unveiled in the first week of October and would be called iPhone 4S. At the time, all other reports called the speculative device the iPhone 5.

Ritchie's report aligns well with previous reports, including John Paczkowski's AllThingsD report that said Apple would launch the iPad 3 in the first week of March. It looks like the tablets are on their way: 9 to 5 Mac released a photo from a user of Sina Weibo, a Chinese microblogging site similar to Twitter, which depicted cargo being loaded onto a cargo plane. The user claims the enormous boxes of cargo are filled with iPad 3 units.

Next-generation iPad shipments are already landing at ports of multiple countries around the world, so expect near-immediate availability, adds 9 to 5 Mac's Mark Gurman. That does not mean you can buy one on event day, but likely within one to two weeks after the announcement.

The iPad 3 is said to feature an improved camera, a bigger battery, and a dual-LED backlit system to power its incredible 2048 x 1536 true HD display. Apple's dual-LED solution makes the iPad's screen noticeably brighter, but it also apparently solved several puzzling issues with heat dissipation and battery consumption.

The iPad 3 will also apparently be the first Apple iOS device to feature the high-speed LTE network. The Wall Street Journal confirms that AT&T and Verizon Wireless are getting ready to sell an LTE-capable iPad, which could achieve faster download and upload speeds compared to 3G technologies.

Apple hoped to include LTE in the iPhone 4S, but the current implementations of LTE in phones caused very short battery life, which was a major complaint by users. Apple CEO Tim Cook, in a company earnings conference call in April 2011, said first-generation LTE chipsets force a lot of design compromises.

The iPhone 4 PCB [printed circuit board] is already incredibly small, not leaving any room for an extra chip to enable LTE without shrinking the size of the battery, said Anand Shimpi, a chip expert and CEO of Anandtech.

Fortunately, Qualcomm recently unveiled the fifth iteration of its new chip, which supports TD-SCDMA, TD-LTE, HSPA+, EV-DO, embedded GPS, and LTE on TDD and FDD networks worldwide. The chip works with Android and Windows 8 devices, but by targeting so many different carriers, there's a high degree of likelihood that this will be the same chip inside the iPhone 5.

Apple has also reportedly upgraded its front and rear cameras for better Facetime and pictures. This is no surprise -- the camera system on the iPad 2 is now considered low-end, given that it only records up to 720p HD and requires tapping to focus. Assuming Apple outfitted the iPad 3 to shoot stills and video like the iPhone 4S, expect autofocus, video stabilization and full 1080p HD video recording.

The New Apple Ecosystem: What Does It Look Like?

In order to tie together the iPad 3 with the new Apple TV, Apple is expected to launch a new version of its mobile operating system, iOS 5.1, which is believed to offer support for 1080p HD videos. Even though HD-capable devices will be able to play full 1080p HD, the current Apple TV maxes out at 720p HD, which makes it obsolete and explains the reason to upgrade.

So, when the Apple TV upgrades and the iPad 3 releases, what does the big picture look like?

First of all, imagine your iPad 3 as an extension of the Apple TV. Not only can you play content from one device to the other, but owners can still mirror whatever is on their iPad 3 screen directly on their televisions via Apple TV. Without 1080p HD capability, TVs would not be able to accurately mirror the iPad 3 screen.

But the key to this system isn't the brilliant display; it's the Bluetooth.

The almost-instant connection achieved by Bluetooth 4.0, which can also leverage the gyroscopes and accelerometers within the iOS devices, opens up the potential for the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch to become remote controls and even game controllers. For instance, if you play a driving game and you turn your phone, the car on the screen may be able to mirror the motion. It's also possible that with the iPad 3's new display, Apple TV games could also be mirrored and played directly on the device as well.

The low latency connection of Bluetooth 4.0 is important for gaming, but it should also reduce the lag experienced in the Airplay mirroring feature in iOS 5, which shows any image on an iPhone or iPad on the Apple TV. Bluetooth 4.0 could also be the key to the completely interconnected system of Apple devices, which was outlined in Walter Isaacson's biography of the company's late founder Steve Jobs.

I'd like to create an integrated television set that is completely easy to use, Jobs told Isaacson. It would be seamlessly synched with all of your devices and with iCloud. It will have the simplest user interface you could imagine. I finally cracked it.

Jobs' goal was to reduce the amount of clutter in the TV watching experience, namely in the number of remotes needed to control the cable channels, as well as peripherals like DVD players and video game systems. Bluetooth 4.0, when used with Apple's iOS devices, could eliminate the need for separate TV and DVD remotes and combine all television needs into a simple interface.

If the iPad 3 and Apple TV can work in tandem, and if Apple can port Siri and motion controls to its Apple TV system, it could easily compete with Microsoft's Xbox 360, which recently announced a deal with Verizon's FiOS cable and Internet service to bring a bundle of 26 live channels with Kinect voice and gesture support to the gaming console.

But more importantly, this new ecosystem fits Jobs' scheme to create tightly integrated products, where hardware and software worked together in harmony not only within a singular device, but across all Apple devices. Expect Apple to debut this new platform that connects the iPad 3, the Apple TV, and HD-quality displays next week.