Following Apple CEO Tim Cook’s comments that the television is an area of “intense interest” for the company, the web has lit up with speculation about what the future could hold for Apple’s widely anticipated living room take-over. Most of the excitement surrounds the idea that Apple might have an actual television in the pipeline (fuelled by Steve Jobs’ comments in his biography that he had “cracked” television). However, many are speculating that Apple might intend only to update the Apple TV set top box in such a way that Apple might be able to transform television without even having to build a box of their own.
Will Apple launch a new Apple TV or an Apple Television?
Reports claim that there is a fully-fledged Apple television already in production, however, even the most excitable of analysts thinks it’s unlikely that Apple will launch a television set this year. Instead it seems much more likely that the company will be revamping its Apple TV set top box with new features.
There is a school of thought that Apple would be better off concentrating its efforts on developing its current Apple TV device, rather than pursuing the idea of an actual television.
However, some reports suggest that even the Apple TV, for so many years descried by Apple as a hobby, is a dead end. The market for set-top boxes is a growing one, according to HIS iSuppli, but it is still insignificant when compared to other markets, such as smartphones. One reason for the lack of popularity of set-top boxes is that more and more smart TVs have the functionality built in. So why buy a separate box.
Whether it turns out to be a lucrative market or not, all eyes are on Apple to fix it, and if the company doesn’t do anything relating to television this year it’s likely to disappoint many and, perhaps unfairly, attract criticism.
New Apple TV release date
So, given that the likely hood of Apple revamping the Apple TV is high, when are we likely to see the new box?
Apple last updated the Apple TV in March 2012. The third generation model looked and acted exactly the same as the previous model, but added 1080p video support. The launch came in conjunction with Apple TV Software Update 5.0, which bought the new features (with the exception of 1080p) to older Apple TVs. Changes include an interface overhaul, access to your purchased movies for streaming, the ability to purchase movies directly from your Apple TV, and access to Genius Playlists and Mixes in your iTunes Match music and Photo Stream.
A new fourth generation Apple TV could well launch exactly one year later in March 2013. However, we believe a new Apple TV is likely to launch in conjunction with an update to iOS. We expect to see iOS 7 at WWDC in June, and believe there is a possibility of the new iPhone and iPad operating system being rolled out into the Apple TV, along with access to iOS Apps on that device.
New Apple TV 4 – leaked images
It’s unlikely that the design of the Apple TV will change from the current model. What may change is the ports on the back.
Currently the Apple TV features the following ports: HDMI2, Optical audio, 10/100BASE-T Ethernet, Built-in IR receiver and Micro-USB (for service and support).
Thunderbolt might be a start, then users could connect their Apple TV to an Apple Thunderbolt Display and pretend that they own the mythical Apple Television. Currently the Apple TV can only connect to a HD TV with an HDMI cable. Many who have decried the Apple TV’s lack of a hard drive would be pleased if the company made the USB service port accessible for plugging in a hard drive.
New Apple TV rumours – Bluetooth
Reports are suggesting that Apple’s set top box may gain Bluetooth functionality in a move that could set that device on its way to taking over the living room.
If Apple was to bring Bluetooth to Apple TV, users would be able to use a Bluetooth keyboard with the Apple TV, making it easier to add text (currently it is necessary to scroll through the alphabet, selecting one letter at a time with the remote control). The ability to use a keyboard with the Apple TV would make navigation of the iTunes Store and YouTube much easier.
Not only would typing be a breeze, you will be able to use arrow keys for navigation, the Return key to play or pause, and the Escape key to back-step.
It’s unlikely that the Bluetooth connection would be used to connect to speakers – speakers are more likely to use Airplay. Nor will the Apple TV connect to the Mac via Bluetooth.
Another advantage of Bluetooth connectivity, it could open up a raft of third party remotes.
New Apple TV rumours – Siri voice control
A Bluetooth connected remote could also include a mic for Siri input, allowing users to control the Apple TV via speech.
New Apple TV rumours – DVR and cloud based recording
Apple is said to be in talks with cable companies in the US, hoping to come to an agreement that would allow the Apple TV to be used as a DVR (digital video recorder).
According to the Wall Street Journal report, the DVR version of the Apple TV would let customers store TV shows in the cloud to be watched when they like. It would also allow users to access the TV shows they had recorded on the iPhone or iPad.
Sounds like a great idea. Such a facility would turn the Apple TV into more than a mere streaming device and increase the content available to users. However, it has been reported that one of the major hangups is resistance by content providers to give Apple maker permission to make their programming available in this way.
New Apple TV rumours – Apple to be the new Foxtel
Another suggestion is that Apple could set itself up as an alternative to the cable and satellite TV providers. Imagine Apple going head to head with Sky, Foxtel? And don’t forget it would also be competing with the free TV services from Freeview.
In Australia, and in the US and elsewhere, Apple would face strong competition, from broadcasters and established platforms for free TV.
New Apple TV rumours – TV as apps
An alternative idea would be that in the future we will be able to subscribe to content in the form of apps. Currently you can buy a series pass to a programme you like, with that programme delivered to your device each week. Could a production company package up their programming in an app and allow subscribers to download the content to their devices, effectively cutting out the middle man?
Former Apple exec Jean-Louis Gassée writes: “Cook has one thing right: The set-top box experience does place one back in time by 20 to 30 years. The solution? Channels, shows, special events should all be presented as apps. Click, pay and play, with standard fare for free. Catch the 6pm news when you get home at 9.30; watch two programmes side-by-side with Android 7 or iOS 9, all on your screen of choice: smartphone, tablet, PC or TV”.
Gassee notes that the obstacle is the “tangled, encrusted business models that the Comcasts, CBSs, and Disneys cling to out of fear that Apple will wrest control of their content, that they’ll be disintermediated à la iTunes or the iPhone/iPad App Store.”
New Apple TV rumours – gaming
We have previously speculated that the Apple TV could become a games console, with iOS already being a popular gaming platform.
The rumour that Apple could turn the Apple TV into a games console has been running for some time.
Wedbush Morgan analyst Michael Pachter claimed Apple had a clear strategy to turn the Apple TV into an all round entertainment system.
“I think Apple has a deliberate strategy. They want to see what they can do with the handhelds – iPod Touch and iPhone – first, then move into console games,” Pachter said. “Apple TV is the device that they can turn into a console, and they have essentially the same goals as Microsoft – to turn Apple TV into an entertainment and Internet hub.”
New Apple TV rumours – 802.11ac networking
Apple looks likely to add a preliminary version of 802.11ac to its Apple TV as well as the Airport base stations as soon as the next major product line refresh.
802.11ac has the capacity to wirelessly network a TV, DVR, smart phone, and sound system, and allow access through an internet-connected device.
Sometimes referred to as ‘Gig Wifi’ of 5G Wi-Fi, 802.11ac is the successor to 802.11n. However, the standard is still in Draft, not having received final approval by the IEEE, yet. This approval isn’t likely to come until later in 2013. This doesn’t mean that Apple will wait until the standard is approved – Apple has shipped products using draft versions of wireless standards in the past (see 802.11n).
New Apple TV rumours – test run for the Apple television
The question is whether these new features would be enough for Apple TV to transform television. It’s fair to say that Apple could test out these ideas on the current device before launching an actual television set onto the market, if that is its plan.