Apple TV mockup (Curved.de 002)

Between the bigger iPhones, new and faster iPads, Apple Pay, the Watch and latest versions of iOS and OS X, the Apple TV project appears to remain on the back burner for now.

Whether or not the decision is meant to prevent spreading Apple too thin and keep its engineers focused on products that matter over a longer arc of time is anyone’s guess.

Now, I’m not pretending that I’m privy to Cupertino’s inner workings.

But the fact remains that, for the time being, Apple seems content with simply stuffing the set-top box with new content sources. Yesterday, for example, Apple TV owners saw the addition of Sports Illustrated’s 120 SPORTS network.

Of course, Tim Cook & Co. must do a whole lot more than simply keep adding new channels to the box. Fans, on the other hand, have been keeping their fingers crossed for an Apple TV hardware upgrade sporting a major OS update and new features like DV-R, live TV functionality, an app store to download and play games on it with the use of ‘Made for iPhone’ controllers.

Watchers are now hoping for an Apple TV refresh at WWDC 2015. But if I were you, I wouldn’t hold my hopes high for a major hardware revision to the set-top box in 2015, and here’s why.

It’s common belief that Apple’s been pulling strings for years trying to talk content owners into packaging and selling individual television programs on iTunes. But those big shot executives in charge of brokering lucrative content deals just wouldn’t budge.

Content is king: throughout 2013, Apple had generated over $1 billion in sales off media content ordered directly through the Apple TV.

What’s missing is premium television programming on iTunes. Stuck in the old ways broadcasters may be, but there’s hope on the horizon. As of recently, the landscape started to alter rapidly and it’s only going to accelerate going forward.

Apple TV Sports Illustrated 120 Sports Home menu

Dish’s new Sling TV service, for example, had cord-cutters pay notice: in exchange for twenty bucks per month, Sling TV delivers a package of ESPN and other premium live feeds over the Internet, no contract or cable subscription required.

Later this year, HBO in a major industry move will start selling online-only subscriptions. Sony’s joining the fray with a similar service of its own, called Vue, and it won’t be long before others follow suit.

Apple TV mockup (Curved.de 005)

As history has shown time and again, greedy television executives are not particularly visionary regarding taking their content to where their customers are.

But as soon as one of those big name broadcasters relents, the industry is bound to soften its stance on content delivery — if anything, out of fear of being left behind. And therein, my friends, lies a big opportunity for Apple’s underappreciated hockey-puck gizmo.

Moreover, Apple’s really, really good at timing.

Case in point: Apple could have released a larger-screened iPhone years ago, but chose not to until rivals mainstreamed phones with screens larger than four inches.

Apple TV mockup (Curved.de 004)

Up until last October, Apple was the only smartphone maker left that made phones with small screens. This has created massive pent-up demand for the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus — the mother of iPhone upgrades, if you will.

If Apple had come out with a larger-screened iPhone a few years ago, it’d have arguably had a tough time selling it as four-inch phones was the gold standard back then.

The analogy with the Apple TV is obvious. While a revised box would no doubt sell in volume, a perfect storm of factors is coming together that will ensure that a future Apple TV upgrade won’t be just a specs bump.

A next-generation Apple TV should be a comprehensive upgrade that must establish a living room platform for years to come. Adding a few bells and whistles and repackaging the whole thing in a shinier enclosure just won’t cut it in the long haul.

Some pieces of the puzzle have fallen in place.

Already with its latest software the Apple TV acts as a hub which connects your HomeKit-compatible devices. An App Store for Apple TV apps and games should be a no-brainer. Apple’s latest A8 processor can play 4K video.

Apple TV mockup (Curved.de 003)

So, what the heck is Apple waiting for?

Two things: content and 4K.

Until iTunes starts offering movies in 4K and TV networks unbundle from cable and begin selling reasonably priced subscriptions through iTunes , I don’t think Apple will greenlight an Apple TV hardware overhaul.

Again, it’s about establishing a platform much in the same way the iPhone and iPad gave birth to a new platform in mobile and the Apple Watch will do the same for wrist computing when it starts shipping in April.

I’m sorry if that disappoints you, but putting a refreshed Apple TV hardware out there just for the sake of it won’t make much sense at this point.

Thoughts?

Apple TV mockup commissioned by German magazine Curved.de.

  • Steven Code

    Man It sucks…I really wonder what the Jobs was working on with tv. Remember those rumors leaks?

  • iViperzLTD

    Sure I won’t hold out if that’s the case. I’m still waiting.

  • Chindavon

    Apple needs to come out with something NOW! My ATV is a dog 40% of the time. Getting real close to getting a RoKu or Fire TV.

  • There really isn’t a need for a newer device. The powder behind ATV3 could run an app store that streams to the device. Controllers could be BT enabled with a software update. DVR isn’t needed on a device such as this unless they want to allow it through a USB connected drive. But adding a drive will have them go back to ATV1/ATV2 type of design, no reason to go backwards. How many people currently have a 4K screen to support that content? Not a lot of people and within the next year you won’t see a huge spike in those purchases either. The biggest issue with ATV3 is the interface design. It’s chunky and that’s why people want a new box, because the feel the older one is to slow. When really Apple just needs to reinvent the interface! If they changed the interface to match say that of Apple Watch, I bet people would be fine with it. It’s time for a refresh of the OS not the hardware, way way way past time!

    • It’s called future proofing!

      How many people have an 802.11ac wireless router? Not many but that still doesn’t stop Apple from adding it to the iPad Air 2 (and presumably the iPhone 6 although I’m not sure).

      Apple doesn’t need to do anything crazy to the Apple TV just up the specs and add an AppStore. I really don’t see why they’ve neglected the Apple TV so much. Perhaps not enough resources with many people working on the Apple Watch and other hardware / software?

      • While I agree future proofing is nice, it’s not actually needed for this type of device. I get why they did it with iPad Air 2, it’s a 500.00 plus dollar investment. An appletv runs 99.99 and less at this point. A massive software update for it would be perfect because it would just bridge some gaps without having everyone purchase a brand new device. Lets face it, ATV hasn’t exactly lived up to expectations. People want an app store, it has bluetooth.. there’s no reason not to have people making games for this along with devices like a controller. And like you said, why have they neglected ATV so much? They claimed at the beginning it was more or less a side project. Well that side project has got a pretty big fan base now, so update the software and give people a reason to have the device again.. Then in another year after that massive software update.. release a brand new version with a lot of bells and whistles that would then make a reason to move to new hardware. Guess we shall see what they decide to do. 🙂

  • Austin Steffen

    I guess I don’t understand why anyone would want an Apple TV. Get the fire tv stick for 60$ less and load XBMC or kodi whatever you prefer calling it and there ya go you got your airplay with every movie an tv show

    • Andres

      It’s not apple

    • Dan

      I agree. XBMC kicks @ss. I used have an Ouya hooked up to the tv, but now I have a small PC that’s hidden away and does the job.

    • nonchalont

      You can AirPlay to a firestick?

      • Austin Steffen

        Xbmc has airplay. You can airplay to any device running xbmc! That’s the greatness of the fire tv. I had an Apple TV 3 and returned it in a week when I saw how simple and easy xbmc is for fire tv

      • nonchalont

        That’s awesome! I mainly use ATv just for AirPlay. I’ll check out a fire TV. Does chromecast do AirPlay also?

    • madmaxmedia

      I assume Fire TV stick is better than the Chromecast due to better hardware, but I really didn’t like using a Chromecast- it was slow, choppy at times, didn’t work smoothly with Plex on my laptop, all of which negated the benefit of having an ‘easy’ wireless streamer- I just never wanted to actually use it. I sold it off and got an Apple TV which has been MUCH better and worth the extra money (I did buy it used so it was only $50.) So the Fire TV stick may actually be a really good device, but price alone is not the factor.

    • AirPlay is a huge advantage if you have an iOS device. I use AirPlay to stream movies from my Plex Media Server on my PC. I can also easily access all of my iTunes content that I’ve purchased over the years. If your not in the Apple ecosystem then a Fire TV is a better option possibly.

      • Buzz { Light:Year; }

        Fire stick has airplay

    • MrDDify

      You could also just jailbreak your ATV and install kobi. Then you have the best of both worlds

      • Austin Steffen

        ATV 2 runs ya like 200$ on eBay and they’re much slower than fire tv. Buy the fire tv and you got airplay and kodi I guess I just don’t understand what makes the ATV so appealing

  • Andres

    The remote would require charging :/

  • Puuh, it’s about time for an upodate with a dedicated ATV AppStore.

    Hey Apple look out Amazon Fire TV is overtaking!!!!

  • appletimemac

    I disagree. Apple A5 devices will be getting the axe this year with iOS 9. Apple TV 3rd Gen (Rev A) uses the A5 processor. The 2nd gen Apple TV dropped support once A4 got the axe with iOS 8. I have a feeling we will see a new Apple TV this year because we HAVE TO. If we don’t, than Apple will no longer update the boxes as development goes forward.

    So unless Apple TV is officially dead, than I fully expect at least an internally updated Apple TV this year, even if it’s a soft refresh.

  • madmaxmedia

    I think a major obstacle to games and apps on the current Apple TV is storage space. It can’t hold a lot of apps, especially games. A 16 or 32GB AppleTV will cost significantly more than $99. I am guessing they would rather continue with Airplay mirroring from iDevice for playing games, not sure how much impact latency has (depends on game type of course too.)

    • A 16 or 32GB AppleTV would have cost more than $99

      You’re overestimating the price of flash storage. It’s super cheap for a company like Apple that buys in bulk. They could improve the Apple TV dramatically and yet keep the price the same…

      • madmaxmedia

        Prices have dropped a lot since the ATV3 was released, I agree now they could improve it and keep the same price. But I think they are waiting until the time is just right. I don’t agree with the waiting either, but I think the next version will officially be the ‘no hobby’ version.

  • Andy

    Yet again, the Apple TV stays in limbo.
    I wonder what will happen to the iPod lineup as well. Unless Apple releases a new iPod touch 6th gen, the 5th gen is due to reach it’s end of life since it won’t get iOS 9 due to it using the A5 chip (same as iPhone 4S, iPad 2, iPad mini… heck even the Apple TV 3 uses it so I have no idea if Apple plans to support that either). If the iPod touch is axed, the iPod line is practically dead (I rarely see anyone in public using a shuffle or nano)

  • Kr00

    I don’t think its about the box itself, but what it can do. Content is slowly building on the ATV and it should continue. So it’s more the software not the hardware that matters.

  • john diaz

    Great concepts

  • Alberto Espinal

    I think it’s going to be big!

  • Joseph

    The concept looks incredibly good. Hope Apple could create something like it.