Here are the facts: this week, Apple did some shuffling of the displays in its (digital) store window. Refreshed pages were launched to take advantage of the next consumer holiday selling point, Valentine’s Day (because nothing says ‘I Love You’ more than a brand spanking new iPad Air or a iPad mini with Retina display, of course – “Two ways to your valentine’s heart”).
Apple watchers noted this and the warm and snugly pink glow emanating from the screen of the iPad Air floating above a subtle grey heart.
But what really caught their attention was above the line. The bit where it says ‘Shop Mac’, ‘Shop iPad’, ‘Shop iPhone’, Shop iPod’… because now there’s a notable addition to that line-up: ‘Shop Apple TV’. Before now you had to go to the iPod section and find the Apple TV sheltering there as a quiet little accessory. Now it is being promoted as a full product line in its own right.
On the one hand, this could be seen as a reflection of the ever downward sales trend of the iPod (starkly underlined by this week’s first quarter 2014 earnings call) and Apple’s desire to untether a product it hopes will be of the future from one undeniably past its glory days.
On the other, the move could be strongly hinting that Apple’s plans for the Apple TV set box and, indeed, the long rumoured Apple TV itself are about to undergo some serious developments.
Blogger Adriana Lee at ReadWrite explains the significance, “It’s the first time the set-top box has gotten the royal treatment alongside Apple’s bigger product lines: the iPhone, iPod, iPad and Mac. … There’s no doubt that, after the Apple earnings call took some of the shine off the iPhone brand this week, the company needs a new hit this year. And there has never been a better time to focus on a TV streaming device than now.
“So what heart-grabbing move could Apple make with the newly prominent Apple TV? Rumours abound, like the persistent notion that Apple will stuff that smart-TV technology into its own flat-screen device. But the one that makes the most sense—that feels the most true to Apple’s heritage—is for it to finally launch an app store for Apple TV,” concludes Lee.
9to5Mac agrees and has already reported that Apple is working on a new version of the set-top box “that will integrate new content (such as apps)”. It is now suggesting some additional features. “We’re told that Apple has considered combining the Apple TV and AirPort Express products. Versions of the new Apple TV in testing are said to include an integrated 802.11ac wireless router,” says the site’s Mark Gurman, adding, “We’re also told that the new Apple TV will likely feature a focus on gaming, and this lines up with a recent iLounge report. We’re led to believe that the game integration will utilise existing iPads, iPhones, and iPod touches as controllers. It’s likely that there, too, will be some integration with Apple’s physical controller MFi program.”
Despite the continued strong sales of iPhone, iPads and Macs detailed in the aforementioned earnings call, tech writers and analysts are still clamouring for new, game-changing products and harping on the familiar catch cry, ‘innovation’. If the above indications are anything to go by, it could be coming soon and it could very well revolve around the Apple TV, as it moves into the mainstream and finally leaves its ‘hobby’ status far behind.