From upgraded box to delayed subscription service, what we know about the new Apple TV
James R | On 20, Aug 2015
Update (1st September 2015): New reports suggest that Amazon is considering producing original content. Details added to original story below.
Apple TV: The only streaming media device to come with its own in-built rumour chip, generating fresh speculation every few months. It’s no secret, after all, that Apple’s little black box has long been in need of an upgrade. While iPhones and iPads have made a move on people’s wrists, Apple’s attempt to conquer the living room has lost all momentum, as rivals launch their own, superior – and, in some cases, cheaper – alternatives.
With a new Apple event set for Wednesday 9th September, surely this is the time for the company to come through for its TV streaming customers and deliver the cord-cutting revolution it promised years ago? Well, yes and no, as new reports suggest that half of its plans are ready.
From hardware to live TV, here’s what we know about the new 2015 Apple TV:
1. The subscription package is delayed
Apple has been eyeing up its own cord-cutting SVOD service, but Bloomberg reports that this is now unlikely to launch until next year at least.
Much like YouTube’s own planned subscription service, Apple is thought to have hit a major stumbling block: content. What is the right package to offer for a competitive price? And what channels can they actually get on board? Talks with providers such as CBS and 21st Century Fox are still ongoing – partly due to discussions over costs – a fact that has no doubt been impacted by the competition for rights deals in such a crowded market.
Others have said that Apple also is struggling on a technological basis, as delivering so much video to so many users both live and on-demand requires a high level of bandwidth. “Apple also doesn’t have the computer network capacity in place to ensure a good viewing experience,” anonymous sources told Bloomberg.
2. Apple is exploring original programming – and failed to nab the Top Gear trio
Apple may not be ready to launch its SVOD service just yet, but Variety reports that the company is already exploring original programming. Apple is thought to have held preliminary talks with Hollywood execs, with staff reporting to Eddy Cue, the VP who has helped to negotiate rights for the recently launched Apple Music.
Will Apple really aim to rival Netflix and Amazon in creating its own in-house content, with an eye to launch operations next year? Or will it partner up with other studios to produce exclusive shows or movies? One source says that the clearest sign of Apple’s ambitions was an attempt to secure the Top Gear trio for a series after their contract ended with the BBC – although Amazon, of course, ultimately won the bidding war.
3. The OS will be improved
One of Apple TV’s biggest flaws – or strengths, if you like the interface – is the lack of regular updates for the device. Want a new look? Don’t expect anything akin to the frequent improvements to its iPhone and iPad operating systems.
That should change with the new Apple TV, though, which Buzzfeed first announced would launch next month. Now, the box is set to feature a TV-optimised version of iOS, which will be powered by a new processor (much like the current iPhone’s A8 chip).
4. An App Store will be included
Part of the issue with the non-updates to Apple TV was that there was no way to choose what apps came with your box: it was only when the whole system was upgraded that a new, Apple-approved channel would appear on your menu. The new box, though, will not only support an App Store – a la all of Apple’s other devices – but also support an SDK for developers. (You can also expect memory space to jump and RAM to increase from 512MB to 1GB.)
What apps will be on offer? 9to5Mac is told that the Apple TV App Store will feature “video-centric applications, which would allow media companies to release new channels on the Apple TV on their own schedule, and not on Apple’s”.
5. The remote will be revamped
Alongside the hardware improvements, Apple will also continue its tradition of updating accessories to go with its newest toy. That means a new remote, which will be larger, have “tactile keys” and also include support for touch-based input.
6. Siri will probably appear
Analsis of files hidden within recent OS X 10.11 El Capitan developer betas also suggest support for audio within the remote – which 9to5Mac speculates could be used for private listening (a la Roku’s earphone-compatible remotes), but is most likely to indicate the arrival of Siri in your living room (also picked up by Buzzfeed).
Just as Amazon’s Fire TV remote allows users to search via voice command, it would be remiss of Apple not to keep up with the competition by using its already developed Siri for something similar. 9to5Max also notes that the Apple TV’s use of iOS 9 would also allow it to work with the operating system’s new “Proactive search” function.
One thing we know for sure, though, is that – subscription service or no – Apple TV is in dire need of an update if Apple hopes to catch up with Amazon, Roku, Google and its other streaming device rivals. With only half of its plans set to be unveiled in September, don’t expect that rumour chip to be removed just yet.