After months of rumour and speculation, Apple finally unveiled a revamped Apple TV yesterday. But rather than a subscription TV service, complete with original programming, as many had expected, we got a long overdue, though necessary, refresh of Apple TV, Apple’s streaming media device.
Apple has not refreshed the hardware on its streaming media box for the better part of three years. During which time other companies including Google, Amazon and Roku have introduced rival devices that are cheaper, faster, and more feature rich and functional.
It is no secret that Apple has a deep interest in playing a more central role in the living room experience and has long harboured hopes of revolutionising the way consumers watch TV. It faces stiff competition, however, from a host of companies including smart TV and video game console manufacturers to incumbent pay TV operators and media streaming box rivals Google, Amazon and Roku.
In fact, Apple TV’s living room footprint to-date is far smaller than the likes of Sony, Samsung and Microsoft who have established a strong base of installed connected TV devices through their smart TVs, Blu-ray players and vide game consoles through which they are able to push over-the-top TV and video services.
To catch up to media streaming box rivals Google, Amazon and Roku, Apple needed to “pull a rabbit out of its hat” and offer something new in terms of features or content in order to help it stand apart from the rest.
At first glance, the new Apple TV fails achieve this, lack any new features not already available on competing streaming media devices such as the Roku 3, Amazon Fire TV, or the NVidia Shield or set-top boxes like Comcast’s X1.
Touch remote – already done. Search – done. Voice control – done. Check, check and check. It seems Apple’s big focus is on casual games on the TV but hasn’t Nintendo’s failures with the Wii U shown that the casual games market has shifted to the tablet? Aside from that brief period when the Nintendo Wii ruled casual games on the TV has never been that popular.
During its presentation, however, Apple did indicate that Apple TV was just the “foundation for the future of television” hinting that there was more to come. With Apple TV serving as the foundation upon which a subscription TV service would run, consumers might yet see a marriage of hardware and service that that does to pay TV what the iPod and iTunes did to the music industry a decade ago.