Shortly before Apple announced the new Apple TV, I wrote a short article in which I described what I would like the next Apple TV to be. My main point wasn't about new hardware, but about new functionality and a new interface that allowed for apps as channels.
For example, an app for each free-to-air channel is obvious, but what about an app for HBO or Showtime? It could open up to a new interface where customers could choose the shows they wanted to watch, it could include special content like behind the scenes and interviews.
How about an app for a show? If I buy the season of The Walking Dead, it could show up as an app on my Apple TV and inside have all the episodes, interviews, webisodes, info about the comic books, etc. It would be like having all the content a DVD has, but in an app accessible through Apple TV. It would also be great for independent content producers by selling direct to customers. Similar to what the Mac App Store does for software.
This obviously didn't happen with the latest version of the Apple TV.
We did get 1080p and a new interface design though. And it's this new Apple TV interface design that I find interesting. It seems to be heading in the direction I was thinking of. The main screen now has icons for things like Netflix, MLB.tv, NHL, Vimeo, and others as well as Movies, TV Shows, Music (which gives you your iTunes Match Library), and Computers (which lets you see the iTunes Libraries of other Macs in your network).
While I'm not convinced the UI is perfect yet, it does feel like a step in the right direction. The new Apple TV interface is ready for apps.