updated 04:34 pm EST, Mon February 10, 2014
Code buried in iOS 7 since firmware's September launch
The AirPlay configuration file in iOS 7 already contains a reference to a fourth-generation Apple TV, reports note. The device is formally listed as the "AppleTV4,1;" the most recent model is the "AppleTV3,2," a slight revision of the third-gen set-top that brought 1080p to the platform. The 4,1 mention appears to have been present since the first version of iOS 7 debuted in September, but the code went unnoticed until today.
Updated Apple TV hardware has been rumored for some time, and recently Apple moved the product into its own category online. It's believed that a fourth-generation model could support games and Bluetooth controllers, and even incorporate its own 802.11ac router, functioning much like an AirPort Express. The nature of the alleged game support is unclear, but might simply involve low-latency streaming from another iOS device. Nintendo's Wii U and Sony's PlayStation 4 already use similar technology.