No new Apple TV box expected this year

Apple TV Air Remote (Martin Hajek 004)

We’ve been kinda holding our breath for an Apple TV hardware refresh this year. Sadly, early signs haven’t been encouraging thus far.

For instance, part leaks are non-existent while useful information in terms of which new hardware capabilities the updated box might bring is few and far between.

Pouring cold water on the “New Apple TV in 2014” meme, The Information, a new publication by the former Wall Street Journal reporter Jessica Lessin, has learned that Tim Cook & Co. have no plans to update the hardware in the $99 media-streaming box this year.

Depending on who you ask, cable companies are “dragging their heels” in terms of negotiating content deals for the device, whereas Apple is reportedly biting off “more than it can chew”

Jessica E. Lessin and Amir Efrati, writing for The Information:

Apple engineers who are working on aspects of the device have been told by their bosses not to expect a launch this year and are working off timelines that assume a launch next year, according to a person familiar with the plans.

Apple employees have cited cable companies “dragging their heels” and the pending Comcast-Time Warner Cable merger as reasons the device and accompanying TV service haven’t launched.

Apple CEO Tim Cook and iTunes/content chief Eddy Cue recently attended the annual retreat for media executives and Silicon Valley luminaries, hosted by Allen & Company in Idaho’s Sun Valley. As far as we can tell, no major media deal came as a result of Apple’s top dogs mingling with Hollywood majors and broadcasters.

The article adds that content owners don’t share Apple’s perspective. Cable executives and TV programmers are quoted as saying that “Apple has bit off more than it can chew.” Content owners deny they’re holding up Apple’s television plans.

The main point of contention seems to be Apple’s rumored insistence on providing online-only channel subscriptions and selling TV programming in bulk, presumably through iTunes.

“They say Apple needs permission from multiple types of rights holders to create the service it wants to offer,” the article adds.

Apple TV mockup ( 002)

Behind the scenes, “everyone is pointing fingers and it remains unclear if and when Apple’s grand vision for consolidating all video watching, along with apps and gaming, might see the light of day,” wrote Lessin and Efrati.

For the past year or so, the Cupertino firm has been relentlessly adding new channels to the device. Sadly, virtually all of the premium entertainment sources that have been added to the device require a valid subscription with a cable or Internet provider.

“Cable companies remain reluctant to leave an opening for Apple, which they fear could displace them as the brand that customers associate with television delivery,” The Information article states. “And they also remain committed to their own new devices and experiences.”

Just yesterday FOX NOW and CNBC content made it to Apple’s box. Though some content is available free of charge, accessing on-demand and live programming requires signing up with a cable provider.

Earlier this month, the Apple TV has brought a dash of interactivity to the otherwise passive television experience by enabling iTunes Extras. Pictured below, iTunes Extras are like DVD menus, just for select iTunes movies.

Featuring interactive menus, iTunes Extras enhance movies with bonus content such as featurettes, behind-the-scenes videos, director’s commentary and other interactive assets.

Apple TV (iTunes Extras 001)

iPhones, iPads and iPod touches will be able to access iTunes Extras when iOS 8 launches this Fall.

To be sure, the article is referring to a major hardware revamp said to be in tow for the $99 box.

Past rumors have indicated that Apple is looking to substantially improve hardware features of the device in order to support downloadable apps and games.

More importantly, the updated streamer is said to combine on-demand television via iTunes and live content by providing a built-in cable/satellite tuner and a brand new user interface.

Are you hopes for an Apple TV refresh in 2014 dashed completely?