With rumors of Apple integrating its own TV bundle service to the system coming and going, here are a few things that could be in the pipeline for Apple TV and tvOS.
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The lack of a hardware update last year may seem to suggest that the Apple TV isn’t a priority for Apple, but software updates seen over the past year prove otherwise. With tvOS 10, Apple brought a dark mode look, smarter Siri search, a new Apple Music design, and control over HomeKit accessories. tvOS 10.1 saw Apple’s release of its ‘TV’ app unifying a range of providers.
Apple is working on lots of original content and rumors of eventually doing a streaming service have persisted over the past year. The recent hire of former Amazon Fire TV Chief, Timothy D. Twerdahl, may point to Apple getting more serious about their living room box. As the Apple TV pushes past being a hobby accessory, let’s take a look at how that will play out for Apple Music content and what happens next for the standalone service and Apple TV.
TV App |
A new report from Bloomberg notes that the TV app, at its current incarnation, is a stripped down version of what it originally was set to be. At first the app was designed to be a portal for accessing live shows and sports, but that never came to light when Apple’s content deals broke down.
Regardless of that, the ‘TV’ app is proof that Apple wants to push towards a more central video consumption experience. The app simplifies the watching experience by bringing together multiple streaming services. By continuously upgrading this and showcasing new networks, apps, and TV shows Apple can push other streaming services to join. As more users begin to use the TV app as their “channel guide” this also creates a platform for organic discovery of Apple’s own upcoming original content.
Streaming Service |
One of the most talked about next steps in Apple’s media center platform would be to incorporate a streaming service of their own. The most recent report from Bloomberg noted that the $30 – $40 a month streaming content deal broke down as result of Apple and partners not coming to terms. Rumors of Apple partnering with various companies have persisted over the past year, with the company even having considered purchasing Time Warner. While Apple hasn’t released anything during that time, it did give way for other major companies to do so.
DirecTV has launched its DirecTV Now service and Hulu is launching its streaming service in the coming months. The difficulties both for services securing relationships with major networks helps highlight one of the potential reasons Apple hasn’t launched its own video streaming service. Eddy Cue, head of services at Apple, best summarizes Apple’s position in this area:
Whether we’re providing it or somebody else is, it really doesn’t matter to us. What we’re trying to do is build the platform that allows anybody to get content to consumers. If a Time Warner [Cable] or a DirecTV wants to offer a bundle themselves, they should do it through Apple TV and iPad and iPhone.
While it’s unclear if we’ll see a service offered directly by Apple, 84% of our readers said they would pay for an Apple web TV streaming service.
Original Content |
In-line with their own streaming service rumors, a heavy amount of reports around Apple original content have also surfaced. Around this time last year Apple was rumored to be working on a six-episode long drama featuring Dr Dre. This would be the start of Apple’s reported foray in creating original video content for Apple Music.
While not exactly offering a streaming service of their own, a catalog of original content could help bolster the Apple Music appeal. The WSJ reported that Apple is “planning to build a significant new business in original television shows and movies” and that they hope to have the content out by the end of 2017.
We’ll soon find out what the public opinion is as Apple showed their teaser of the Apple Music specific Carpool Karaoke at this past Sunday’s 59th Annual Grammy Awards. Planet of the Apps, Apple’s reality TV show around application development, is also set to premiere this spring.
During Apple’s Q1 2017 earnings call Tim Cook explained:
“In terms of original content, we have put our toe in the water doing some original content for Apple Music, and that will be rolling out through the year.”
As more of Apple’s own original content comes to light, it becomes clear that the Apple TV should be marketed as the central hub to consume this content. Convincing users they can ditch their tiny screens and watch comfortably on the couch could help the Apple TV gain mass appeal.
As a Siri-powered Amazon Echo-like device enters prototype testing, the Apple TV was at one point considered a home for the personal assistant. A recent report indicates that the microphone we find in the Siri Remote today was actually intended to be installed into the Apple TV originally. Bloomberg reported that Apple decided against building the standalone assistant into the Apple TV before setting sights on its own speaker. That doesn’t mean that the Apple TV isn’t still a prime location for integration with a Siri speaker.
In an earlier rumor, the Siri speaker was said to include a facial recognition camera as well. The camera would allow the speaker to “automatically pull up a person’s preferences, such as music and lighting they like”. Both these tasks are something the Apple TV already handles today. Making the Apple TV the perfect companion to a Siri speaker gives customers another reason to have one around.
The tvOS 10 upgrade brought HomeKit control to Siri on the Apple TV. With just the Siri Remote, users could dim and control their HomeKit accessories from the couch. With tvOS 10.0.1, the Apple TV brought support for App Launch and Wi-Fi Accessory Configuration. These two new features would allow accessories to launch and configure themselves using just the Apple TV.
The only remaining piece here would be for Apple to build out a ‘Home’ app for tvOS turning it into a true HomeKit hub. Having the Apple TV as a one-stop shop for HomeKit configuration and control would make the device all the more useful.
While third-party accessory makers can continue to build out more integrated devices for the Apple TV, Apple themselves had even considered making their own MFi controller. Building out an Apple-made gaming controller could help the company drive the gaming experience to the living room Apple TV.
Possible Hardware Upgrades |
The most obvious hardware improvement for the next Apple TV would be 4K video support. A new report states that Apple is currently testing out a 4K Apple TV variant (codename “J105”) that could see a release later this year. As 4K TV prices continue to drop, the current Apple TV starts to feel like it’s lagging behind. The delay could be for a few reasons.
To start, the iTunes movie catalog only offers HD resolutions up to 1080p. On top of that, Apple may not feel that the Apple TV’s storage capacity is large enough. That takes us to the second most obvious hardware improvement: upgrade the Apple TV’s capacity. Last year’s iPhone 6s could shoot in 4K video, but you wouldn’t even be able to experience that on the current-gen Apple TV. Current iPhone storage capacities reach up to 256 GB making the Apple media center’s 64 GB of storage feel paltry. A more recent discovery points the delay to the 4K variant needing a faster processor. This would not only increase manufacturing costs but eat more into Apple’s margins, something they most likely weren’t ready for.
Another hardware upgrade the Apple TV could see is by replacing Apple’s rumored defunct router business. Building an AirPort router into the Apple TV makes sense as it gets closer to being an always-on HomeKit hub and Siri speaker companion.
Even with all the recent reports about the Apple TV, one that has died down is the speculation of a physical TV. Having been rumored for years, reports from last August shared that Steve Jobs had planned to work on the project even after stepping down as CEO. Though the holy grail TV set rumor persisted, the product may never see the light of day.
With everything Apple has been working on over the past year, the Apple TV is set to have a productive year. The software Apple has been pushing to the device highlights new and original content for discovery, and shows Apple is getting serious about TV viewing on the device. With Planet of the Apps and Carpool Karaoke hitting Apple Music soon, we’ll see if it can help turn the Apple TV into the premiere way to watch. Having the Apple TV become a hub for Siri and better HomeKit control would be an ideal way to turn the Apple TV into a living room mainstay. While integrating a router may not be a clear choice, doing so could allow Apple to make the Apple TV more of a must-have device.
Apple usually updates the hardware and software for the Apple TV late in the year around its fall events. The last Apple TV was unveiled September 2015 where Cook declared that “the future of TV is apps.”