When will the Apple TV be updated? Is it worth buying an Apple TV now, or will a new Apple TV come out before the end of 2014? And why is Apple taking so long to update the Apple TV? We ask the questions and attempt to find the answers in this article.
Update: Sorry folks, the new Apple TV didn't get unveiled during Apple's 16 October special event as hoped. Read on to find out all of the rumours about the Apple TV and when it might launch instead!
We've been waiting since January 2013 for Apple to update its Apple TV, so it's no surprise that there are so many rumours surrounding the new version of the Apple TV, Apple's set-top box. In this article, we've collected all of the speculation relating to the fourth-generation Apple TV, which everyone is hoping will arrive before the end of 2014.
In this article, we bring you all of the latest rumours about the new Apple TV release date as well as new features that the device needs if it is to compete with the alternatives to Apple TV, especially here in the UK. We'll update this story as more Apple TV information becomes available, so be sure to check back from time to time.
The developer notes associated with the latest beta software for the Apple TV refers to the device being used to "test HomeKit with your iOS apps", suggesting that the Apple TV will become the hub of the digital home. Plus an analyst has said that Apple is working with Twitter and Facebook to bring those apps to the Apple TV! Read on to find out more
Plus, find out what's instore for next year: Apple rumours and predictions for 2015
What is Apple TV?
The Apple TV is a tiny box (less than 10cm squared) that plugs into your TV and connects wirelessly to the internet to bring you access to films, TV programmes, and your iTunes music, and more. You can connect to the iTunes Store to rent films and TV shows, or subscribe to Netfilx for £5.99 a month to get access to the massive library Netflix has on offer. Apple TV also offers access to Now TV, Vimeo, YouTube and Flickr, and more. It costs £79.
To avoid potential confusion, this article focuses on the Apple TV - the existing, currently available, set-top box that Apple has described as a hobby until recently - rather than the Apple television that is rumoured to be in the works. If you want to find out about more about the TV set, you can read all the rumours about the iTV Apple Television here.
And if you just want to read about the currently available Apple TV model, try our updated Apple TV review and our advice on How to set up Apple TV - not to mention our dedicated Apple TV zone, where you'll find all of our Apple TV articles, reviews, buying advice and tutorials. Finally, try our preview of the new Apple TV, including all the features you can expect.
New Apple TV 2014 release date: When's the new Apple TV coming out?
We've been expecting a new Apple TV for a while now, there are some recent rumours suggesting that a new Apple TV might be unveiled at the Apple Event on 16 October. Could Apple be about to update the long neglected TV set top box?
This isn't the first rumour of an immanent launch. Back on 17 August, letemsvetem applem, one of the biggest Apple Premium Resellers in Slovakia, suggested that Apple would update the Apple TV the following week. (Their contact claimed that Apple had stopped selling current Apple TVs to resellers.) But that date has long gone, and we're still waiting. What other evidence is there for an imminent Apple TV update?
Earlier this summer, here in the UK (and in the US), Apple was giving away £25 (or $25) iTunes vouchers with sales of the Apple TV. The Apple TV costs £79 here. Some might presume that Apple was trying to shift the last load of Apple TV boxes before introducing a new unit. There is no delay on shipping the Apple TV though, so there is no evidence that stocks are now short.
That deal ended on 30 September, which lead some to suppose that that the new Apple TV could come out on 1 October. It didn't, but if it had those people who had recently bought an Apple TV would have been able to return their model, which is not likely a situation Apple would be happy with. More likely is a date after 30 October which would mean that a full month had passed since any purchases (allowing for the 28 day statutory rights law).
Other rumours suggest that the new Apple TV won't launch until 2015 and we think this is a much more likely scenario. Back in July a report came in from The Information (subscription required). The Information's source had them that Apple's engineers who are working on the project have been told that the launch will not happen in 2014. The reason for the delay: problems negotiating with the cable companies in the US (particularly Comcast, who are to be acquired by Time Warner Cable). In fact this merger - likely to have a huge impact on the industry - may be the reason for the delay.
According to The Information, TV industry executives have said that "Apple has bit off more than it could chew" in terms of its plans for the Apple TV.
The rumour that Apple is in negotiations with Comcast/Time Warner has been circling for some time, and it may well explain the delays. You can read more about that deal below.
What is likely to happen sooner rather than later is another update to the Apple TV software. You can read all about the latest software updates to the Apple TV below (see Apple TV content).
However, we aren't giving up hope entirely, there have been plenty of rumours this year that suggested that a new Apple TV is on its way. In February 2014, references to a fourth-generation Apple TV were spotted within iOS 7 configuration files, adding evidence to the rumours that suggest a new Apple TV is on the way. The references were spotted within an Apple TV framework that relates to the AirPlay functionality of the device. The framework mentions an "AppleTV4,1" which appears to be a next generation device that follows the current Apple TV, called "AppleTV3,2" within the framework.
Even back in 2013 there were claims that Apple would launch a new Apple TV last October, although according to the source of those rumours, the Apple TV project had "been delayed a bit".
New Apple TV 2014 rumours: New design?
We don't expect that the design of the Apple TV will change from the current model. However, there are a number of theories that could see the design change significantly.
Following in the footsteps of the Roku Streaming Stick and Google ChromeCast, it's possible that Apple's next Apple TV could take a completely different form factor. Those devices take on the styling of a USB memory stick, except they plug into an HDMI port. They include no storage, and offer access to various web based TV channels and On Demand and subscription content. It seems reasonable to suppose that Apple might take on this design cue for the new Apple TV.
Luckily, Martin Hajek, famous for creating concept images of the iPhone 6, has now teamed up with German site, Curved.de to create some images of what they refer to as the AppleTV Air. Curved.de estimates the price at €49, which translates to around £40 or $67.
Alternatively, it is possible that the Apple TV could be bigger than it is currently if Apple was to include an Airport Express and a TV tuner inside the device, as discussed below.
We do expect that the ports on the back of the Apple TV will change. For example, Thunderbolt seems likely to be introduced in the next version of the Apple TV, then users could connect their Apple TV to an Apple Thunderbolt Display and pretend that they own the mythical Apple Television. Currently the Apple TV can only connect to a HDTV with an HDMI cable.
A smaller design wouldn't allow for all the ports currently found on the back of the Apple TV. The device currently features the following ports: HDMI2, Optical audio, 10/100BASE-T Ethernet, Built-in IR receiver and Micro-USB (for service and support). Perhaps the new Apple TV Streaming Stick could by pass these additional ports.
Many who have decried the Apple TV's lack of a hard drive would be pleased if the company made the USB service port accessible for plugging in a hard drive. There are more concept images further down in this article.
New Apple TV 2014 rumours: Homekit to make Apple TV the hub of the home?
The Apple TV looks set to become the device that you use to control all the devices in your home.
The latest beta software for the Apple TV is said to include “support for Family Sharing and can be used for testing Airplay and HomeKit with your iOS apps.” That’s from Apple’s own notes about the beta release, according to Apple Insider.
It is likely that the Apple TV will become a remote access point for the devices within your home, accessed via iCloud from wherever you are.
We already knew that the Apple TV featured HomeKit support, but this is the first time Apple has referred to it in the notes about the Apple TV. It was a Forbes source that initially revealed that the 7.0 update the Apple TV had added support for HomeKit. That source claims that the Apple TV would serve as the central hub of the HomeKit features. “HomeKit support is built into the Apple TV firmware now,” he said
It is likely that this new functionality will arrive as a software update to existing Apple TV units rather than requiring a new Apple TV box.
According to the Forbes source, anyone with a third generation Apple TV and with the latest 7.0 software update will now likely have a HomeKit-enabled central hub, whether they know it or not.
HomeKit (revealed at WWDC) is the developer kit that enables communication between a iOS device and your various home appliances.
Apple has already revealed that HomeKit will use Bluetooth and WiFi to communicate, and Apple TV offers both. It’s always connected to WiFi and is always in your home. You could connect to it at any time and control your house’s lighting and heating when you are absent.
New Apple TV 2014 rumours: Continuity on the Apple TV
During WWDC 2014, Apple unveiled iOS 8 and Yosemite, which will both include a new 'Continuity' feature to allow you to work seamlessly between your Mac and iOS device. Apparently, Continuity is coming to the Apple TV, too. This may be a software update for the current Apple TV, but could also hint at a new Apple TV coming this autumn.
9To5Mac reports that users running iOS, OS X and Apple TV betas have spotted evidence that Continuity is coming to the Apple TV sin the future. Several people have seen notifications that read "Device available for Continuity... Apple TV is now available for Continuity."
This could potentially mean that a user who's been watching a movie on their iPhone on their journey home will walk into their house and see their movie automatically begin playing on their television thanks to the Apple TV.
New Apple TV 2014 rumours: Twitter & Facebook
Another new rumour is that Apple will soon be able to offer access to Facebook and Twitter via the Apple TV. Global Equities Research Trip Chowdhry
believes that Apple is working with FaceBook and Twitter to bring those apps to the Apple TV, the addition of these apps is said to be part of a drive towards ‘Social TV’, according to a Motley Fool report.
The idea will be that some TV channels will show Tweets using a special hastag along the bottom of the screen while the a programme is airing. While there is very little content that is available to watch live on the Apple TV, tweets could be time stamped so that they appear at the right time.
New Apple TV 2014 rumours: how the Apple TV will be controlled
Tim Cook uses the Apple Watch to control Apple TV
In an interview with BloombergBusinessweek Apple CEO Tim Cook revealed that: “I love operating my Apple TV from the watch”. Regarding this feature Cook said: “There's-I don't think we showed this. I've got a little advance copy. And so it will operate your Apple TV, and you can imagine that it can control other things as well.”
Read more about the Apple Watch here.
Motion control remote
A magic wand for the Apple TV has been mentioned in a Steve Jobs email being used as evidence in court in the Apple v Samsung case. This "magic wand" was mentioned by Steve Jobs in a agenda for a managers meeting. It was intended for use with the Apple TV. The magic wand idea has also leaked in the past, with claims that Apple was looking at ways of controlling the Apple TV using motion. You can read the whole Steve Jobs email here.
KGI analyst Ming-Chi Kuo is one of the many analysts who expect the new Apple TV will offer motion controls.
An Apple TV job listing has lead to speculation that Apple is planning to add a camera to the Apple TV. This camera could be used for FaceTime calls, or for motion detection.
The vacancy is for a person to join Apple's Camera Software Team and within the job listing Apple refers to the Apple TV, among other Apple products (iPad, iPhone).
The job openings are for a Camera Algorithms Developer, Camera Tuning Framework Engineer, Media System Performance Engineer, according to Apple Insider, and the qualified candidates need to have experience working with camera capture frameworks.
Since Apple acquired PrimeSense - the developer of the motion-tracking tech inside the original Kinect sensor for the Xbox 360 - there have been claims that the company would add motion detection to the Apple TV as a way to control the device.
Siri/voice control remote
The new Amazon FireTV offers voice control, which has lead to calls for Apple to include such a feature in the new Apple TV. Rumours have pointed towards Apple using Siri as a new input method for the Apple TV for some time.
Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster told investors that he expects that Apple will add voice control to the Apple TV.
It was thought that the new Apple TV's remote could include a mic for Siri input, allowing users to control the Apple TV via speech. Users could speak to their Apple TV, requesting that it plays the episode of The Big Bang Theory where Raj has a crush on Siri.
The latest rumours suggests that Apple has looked away from Siri for a method to control the interface of the Apple TV, however. It was thought that when Steve Jobs claimed he had "cracked" what was wrong with television, and masterminded a way to make it a better user experience, he was talking about Siri.
New look Apple TV remote
Other methods of controlling the Apple TV include bluetooth keyboards. This has been possible since a software update in January 2013 (Apple TV 5.2) meant that a Bluetooth keyboard could be used with the Apple TV – prior to that it was necessary to type by scrolling through the alphabet, selecting one letter at a time with the remote control. You can pair the keyboard under Settings > General > Bluetooth.
Apple's always been keen to make navigation possible with the minimum number of buttons and button presses, but we can't help but think that the current remote makes navigation on the current Apple TV a chore.
Martin Hajek has some concept designs for a new Apple Remote.
New Apple TV 2014 rumours: Content
New Apple TV channels
While many are wating for Apple to launch a new version of the Apple TV, the company has made a number of updates to the software and other capabilities over the years. Various updates to the Apple TV software have added a number of new app-style TV channels to the device, delivering new content to Apple TV users.
We still haven’t got nearly the breadth of content our US cousins have access to, but the a software update to Apple TV in September did add some new content from Sky:
Sky has added some more Now TV subscription options to the Apple TV including the Entertainment Month Pass and the Sky Movies Month Pass.
- The Entertainment Month Pass includes shows from Sky 1, Sky Atlantic, Sky Living, ITV Encore, Gold, Comedy Channel, Fox, and ABC Studios. It costs £4.99 a month.
- The Movies Month Pass includes streaming of more than 800 movies for £8.99 a month following a 30-day free trial.
- There is already access to the Sky Sports Day pass, which costs £9.99 a day (currently there is a special offer of £6.99 a day and £10.99 for a week).
Back in March, the Apple TV v6.1 update included a new security option so that iOS devices and Macs should be verified with a screen code before being using AirPlay. This will only be required once, and is, no doubt, an extra layer of security designed to stop malicious devices on the network from accessing the Apple TV. Another new feature was the ability for a device to discover the Apple TV via Bluetooth, which could be useful if network traffic is heavy.
A further update was the ability to hide channels from the main menu. This was previously possible, but it is now much simpler. As with iOS, if you wish to hide an item, hold down the Select button on the remote and when the icons start jiggling, select the item, press Play/Pause and select Hide This Item. Previously you had to go in to parental settings to choose whether to hide certain channels.
In February, Apple added a brand-new channel to the Apple TV to commemorate the 50th anniversary of The Beatles' American debut, featuring a video of the band's appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1964, as well as links to several of the band's albums.
In December 2013 Apple added support for the Sky Sports Day Pass to the Apple TV, via Sky's Now TV service. Thanks to this update sports fans in the UK can buy a 24-hour pass for £9.99 and gain access to all the Sky Sports channels. Just this week, Apple added the Red Bull channel to the Apple TV.
The most recent major update was the Apple TV Software Update 6.0 in September 2013 – in conjunction with the launch of iOS 7. That update bought iTunes Radio (to the US); access to the iTunes Music Store for browsing, purchasing and playing music; iCloud Photos gained support for playing videos in a shared photo stream as well as viewing photo streams; AirPlay from iCloud meant that content stored in iTunes in the Cloud could be streamed; iMovie Theatre became available for streaming homemade iMovies; subtitles, automatic Software Updates and the ability to use an iPhone iPad, or iPod touch to transfer network settings to your Apple TV were also added.
Prior to that update in September, June 2013 bought Apple TV Software Update 5.3, which offered support for third-party content from HBO GO and ESPN in the States, along with Sky News, Quello and Crunchyroll.
As you can see, over the months and years, Apple has added various features to the Apple TV without actually updating the hardware. Many of these updates have bought content to the device, such as the recent addition of Sky's Now TV Sports Day Pass in the UK, and the HBO GO programming on offer in the US. These additions suggest that Apple is working hard behind the scenes to reach agreements with content owners so that it can improve the content offering of the device. The great news is it seems to be the case that even older Apple TV boxes can take advantage of these features as they come in the form of software updates.
iPlayer and other OnDemand channels?
When the new Apple TV launched we hope to see the UK's On Demand channels finally coming to the Apple TV. Most of Apple's competition in this field offers catch up TV and On Demand options and Apple's lack of iPlayer and 4oD and the like is particularly astonishing in this context.
One criticism of the existing Apple TV is its lack of UK on demand TV channels. Most notable for its absence is iPlayer, exacerbated by the fact that it is available on much of the competition, including Google's Chromecast. Will the new Apple TV have iPlayer, or will the BBC just continue to rely on its iPlayer app for iPhone and iPad?
The BBC has revealed that it decided to support the Google Chromecast at launch, despite still not offering iPlayer for Apple TV, because the "Apple TV currently works only with Apple devices."
The BBC states on its website: "Chromecast has SDKs available for a number of different platforms including iOS, Android, and the Chrome browser for laptop and desktop computers."
Although the Chromecast requires a mobile device or the Chrome browser to operate, it takes the streams directly from the content provider, not from your phone, and the Chromecast dongle does all the lifting of decoding and playing the video stream. This system is easier on the devices battery and more efficient in terms of network activity, explains the BBC.
While it is possible to stream BBC iPlayer from your iPhone or iPad to an Apple TV using AirPlay, in that case all the work is being done by the BBC iPlayer app on your iPad or iPhone, rather than on the Apple TV, which is battery intensive work for the device.
As we mentioned below, Apple needs to get the UK's On Demand and catch up TV channels onto the UK Apple TV if it is to match the competition. Apple's main competition in this field: the Roku 3 offers access to the UK On Demand channels, as does YouView and FreeTime and many other TV streaming options. Read more: Why Apple needs to tune in to the needs of UK Apple TV users
Is Apple working on getting more content for Apple TV?
Luckily, there is evidence that Apple is working hard on its relationship with content producers, and also on making the user experience with third-party apps better. In January and February 2014 Apple advertised job vacancies for people to help insure that video streaming is smooth as well as liaise with third party content producers to make sure that the user experience is exemplary.
One position is for an Apple TV Content Partner Engineer who will "provide technical support to external vendors as they integrate their content." This person will also focus on the user experience when using third-party Apple TV channels and provide feedback to those partners.
Another position is for a Software QA Engineer to work with content providers and Apple's engineers to identify defects with the content and software, according to Apple Insider's report.
In 2013 Apple was clearly in discussions with the world's media companies, as can be seen from the gradual roll out of programming from these content providers in Apple TV software updates. Apple wasn't the only one; Intel was also liaising with major media companies in the US with the aim of bringing live TV and on-demand programming to its Intel TV device. That Intel project has now been sold to Verizon, which doesn't necessarily mean it was a failure, just that Intel is focusing on processors and not getting side-tracked.
The idea that Apple could see success by adding more content to the Apple TV is a popular theory. Former Apple exec Jean-Louis Gassée wrote: "Cook has one thing right: The set-top box experience does place one back in time by 20 to 30 years. The solution? Channels, shows, special events should all be presented as apps. Click, pay and play, with standard fare for free. Catch the 6pm news when you get home at 9.30; watch two programmes side-by-side with Android 7 or iOS 9, all on your screen of choice: smartphone, tablet, PC or TV".
Gassee notes that the obstacle is the "tangled, encrusted business models that the Comcasts, CBSs and Disneys cling to out of fear that Apple will wrest control of their content, that they'll be disintermediated à la iTunes or the iPhone/iPad App Store."
Unfortunately one major deal rumoured to have been close to completion was with Time Warner, who were then bought by Comcast, potentially putting a stop to any such agreement with Apple.
Analyst Ming-Chi Kuo also thinks Apple may work to integrate "more TV content, services and its App Store" into Apple TV with the next generation, in order to ensure shipment growth is not limited.
There is more about the rumoured Comcast deal towards the end of this article.
New Apple TV 2014 rumours: Games on the Apple TV
Calls for Apple to add gaming to the Apple TV have increased following the launch of the Amazon FireTV. The FireTV offers more channels than the Apple TV, plus gaming. There are said to be 133 games available for the Amazon FireTV. Roku also offers games on its devices.
Apple does already offer some gaming on the Apple TV - although this is via the iPad.
The new Apple TV will blend live TV listings with apps and video, and it will have a big focus on gaming, people familiar with the Apple Comcast talks told The Information.
Other reports are also suggesting that when the rumoured Apple TV update comes it could include games functionality. iLounge reports that, according to "reliable industry sources," an update to the Apple TV will soon bring games support and a game store.
Games would be downloaded directly to the device and the controller would be a Bluetooth device, according to iLounge.
Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster told investors in a note that he expects that Apple will add gaming to the Apple TV.
Apple has seen a lot of success with gaming on its iPad and iPhone devices and that might suggest that Apple will see as much success if it brings gaming to the Apple TV. Games developers may reach the same conclusion, and with games developers having already written games for the iPad and iPhone, they may be eager to write games for this new platform, especially if the processor and the operating system is the same.
However, rewriting an iOS game for the Apple TV may not be straightforward. It may not be simple to change the game's means of interaction from a touch screen interface to a hand held controller.
There's another reason why games developers may not jump at the chance of providing games for this new platform: right now there are 13 million Apple TVs, and not all of these Apple TV owners will want to play games. There are a lot more games consoles vying for the attention of games developers.
Regardless of the current Apple TV market share, gaming could open up the device to a new market of Apple TV customers.
We have previously speculated that the Apple TV could become a games console, with iOS already being a popular gaming platform.
The rumour that Apple could turn the Apple TV into a games console has been running for some time. Back in 2009 we reported an analyst's comments that the Apple TV had a future as a gaming device.
New Apple TV 2014 rumours: Integrated storage and live TV recording
These rumours of new gaming functionality pose the question of whether the new Apple TV will offer storage. The original Apple TV offered a 40GB or 160GB hard drive when it launched in 2010, but this was omitted from the following generations. Over the years Apple has moved towards streaming content from iTunes and other services, but much of the competition to the Apple TV offers storage, so maybe a SSD inside the Apple TV would be a good call.
Another reason why storage could be a bonus is if the Apple TV turned into a DVR, allowing you to record live TV.
In 2013 reports suggested that Apple was in talks with cable companies in the US, hoping to come to an agreement that would allow the Apple TV to be used as a DVR (digital video recorder).
According to the Wall Street Journal report, the DVR version of the Apple TV would let customers store TV shows in the cloud (rather than internal storage) to be watched when they like. It would also allow users to access the TV shows they had recorded on the iPhone or iPad.
Such a facility would turn the Apple TV into more than a mere streaming device and increase the content available to users. However, it has been reported that one of the major hang-ups is resistance by content providers to give Apple maker permission to make their programming available in this way.
New Apple TV 2014 rumours: TV Tuner for live TV
To make the recording of live TV possible the Apple TV would need a means to receive live TV. Enter another rumour – this one suggests that the new Apple TV could include a TV tuner, enabling Apple to offer live TV as well as OnDemand services.
With the integration of a TV tuner users could manage all their entertainment from one single Apple-designed interface.
This is a nice idea, but integrating a TV tuner in the device could mean that Apple needs different hardware for different countries. A look at the range of TV tuners offered by Elgato, for example, demonstrates the fact that it is necessary to sell different units in different countries due to the different standards, frequency bands, and so on.
New Apple TV 2014 rumours: Integrated AirPort Express
Reports have also claimed that the new Apple TV could include a built in AirPort Express wireless router. The AirPort Express wasn't updated last year when Apple updated the AirPort Extreme with 802.11ac technology, so, like the Apple TV, the AirPort Express is due an update.
The new version of the new Apple TV would include a 802.11ac router, writes 9to5Mac, explaining that this would improve video quality and stability as there would be no need to connect a separate wireless router.
However, where the AirPort Express is currently a similar size to the Apple TV, the AirPort Extreme features a much bigger box because the antennas needed to be further apart. If Apple integrated an AirPort Express inside the Apple TV it may need to be much bigger.
New Apple TV 2014 rumours: integrated in the Mac mini
This one is pure speculation on our part, but a Mac mini that included Apple TV hardware would be the perfect media centre for the Apple loving household.
New Apple TV 2014 rumours: Apps and an App Store
Another rumour has suggested that Apple may launch an App Store for the Apple TV. Many of the apps we use on our iPad and iPhone could find a home on the Apple TV. The iPlayer and Channel 4OD apps would be particularly welcome, as would weather apps, news apps, FaceTime, FaceBook and Twitter, and other means of entertainment.
Again, storage could be a necessity if users are able to download apps to the Apple TV rather than Apple host them in the cloud.
New Apple TV 2014 rumours: A8 chip
Earlier this year analyst Ming-Chi Kuo suggested that the A7 chip could be used in the next Apple TV. That's the same chip as the iPhone 5s, iPad Air and Retina iPad mini features. Obviously now that the A8 chip has launched in the new iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus it is possible that the A8 chip could appear.
Should the Apple TV gain either of these chips - which are 64-bit - it would have enough power to run games.
New Apple TV 2014 rumours: concept images
Martin Hajek, famous for creating concept images of the iPhone 6, has now come up with a number of concept images for the Apple TV including a new look remote control that take inspiration from the iPod touch (it reminds us of the iPod nano from a few generations ago). His Apple TV measures 9.8 x 9.8 cm (similar to the current Apple TV) but is thinner at 1.67 cm. He has also suggested that models could come in grey, gold and silver.
Hajek worked with German website CURVED to come up with the images, which include one that shows the remote using inductive charging having been laid on top of the Apple TV.
The following images were produced by Hajek.
Read on to find out more about the new Apple TV spec and features including details about new channels and games.
New Apple TV 2014 rumours: New interface
It seems likely that the new Apple TV will feature a revamped interface that is a little more iOS-like than currently.
It is thought that the new Apple TV interface might unify the various apps and channels so that users can navigate all their content. For example, currently the same movie might be available to rent in iTunes and stream in Netflix, this new interface could make it possible to locate what you want to watch via your Apple TV from the home screen, rather than within separate apps.
Should Apple integrate a TV tuner in the new hardware the new interface may also include live TV channels.
Related: Why everyone thinks Apple will launch a television
Following Apple CEO Tim Cook's comments that the television is an area of "intense interest" for the company, the web lit up with speculation about what the future could hold for Apple's widely anticipated living room take-over.
Most of the excitement surrounds the idea that Apple might have an actual television in the pipeline (fuelled by Steve Jobs’ comments in his biography that he had "cracked" television). However, many are speculating that Apple might intend only to update the Apple TV set-top box in such a way that Apple might be able to transform television without even having to build a box of their own.
"I'd like to create an integrated television set that is completely easy to use," Steve Jobs is quoted as saying in Walter Isaacson's biography of the Apple founder. "It would be seamlessly synced with all of your devices and with iCloud. It will have the simplest user interface you could imagine. I finally cracked it."
Meanwhile Apple design guru Jony Ive says that Apple's next big product "feels like the most important and the best work we've done, and so it would be what we're working on right now, which of course I can't tell you about." Both of these suggest that an Apple television - or iTV, ignoring possible confusion with the British TV broadcaster - is part of the plan for Apple.
Indeed, reports from the Far East claim that there is a fully fledged Apple television already in production.
However, at least for now, more likely that the company will be revamping its Apple TV set-top box with new features. Indeed, there is a school of thought that Apple would be better off concentrating its efforts on developing its current Apple TV device, rather than pursuing the idea of an actual television (described by some as the iTV despite that being the name of a UK TV channel).
With set-top boxes such as Roku and YouView becoming increasingly popular, as internet services like Netflix and Lovefilm grow, and more and more consumers are looking for on-demand TV solutions. Apple is a popular competitor in the set-top box market, so it's likely it'll want to up its game to ensure it stays on top.
Background: What you need to know about the history and future of the Apple TV...
How old is the current Apple TV?
The Apple TV hardware in its current form is more than a year old, although the most recent significant hardware update came over two years ago on 16 March 2012 when Apple added 1080p video support. The slight revision in January 2013 was more about making it cheaper for Apple to build than adding new functionality for users.
Apple has made a number of software updates to the unit over the years, adding new channels, however this tends to be very US focused, while here in the UK the Apple TV is way behind the competition who offer iPlayer, 4oD and other OnDemand channels. As much as we like the Apple TV we really can't forgive Apple for being so slow on the uptake when it comes to UK content.This spring Apple dropped the price in the UK, so you can now get the Apple TV for £79 (rather than £99), but the jury is out on whether this is a good deal, especially considering the additional features of the ever increasing competiton.
Given the level of competition in this industry - you can read about all the Apple TV alternatives here - it is increasingly important that Apple doesn't drop the ball on the development of its 'hobby'. (Apple always used to refer to the Apple TV as a hobby for it, in recent years it's given the impression that it sees it as more important, but unfortunately in the UK Apple seems to have forgotton all about the product.)
- How to connect your iPhone to your TV
- How to fix The AirPlay Device is not available errors in Mac OS X
- Apple TV reviews
Has Apple given up on the Apple TV?
Is this Comcast/Time Warner hiccup really the reason for the delay? For those of us in the UK any deal with Comcast/Time Warner would be irrelevant, so is this the real reason for the delay? Apple seems stuck in a rut in the UK, unable to even get a dedicated iPlayer channel on the Apple TV while all the competition has iPlayer and the other on demand channels. It looks like the company has all but given up on the product, at least in the UK.
The Apple TV may not be getting much love in the UK, but in the US Apple still seems to be proud of the Apple TV. During WWDC 2014 on 2 June, Apple didn't mention the Apple TV, instead focusing on OS X Yosemite and iOS 8, but, during the aforementioned conference, Apple's Eddy Cue said that he expects sales of the Apple TV to grow in 2014, as Apple works to evolve the device. He admitted that the current TV experience "sucks," but wouldn't talk about future products when probed about the future of the Apple TV. Spoil sport. Some might say the current Apple TV sucks given it's lack of channels in the UK.
Other evidence that Apple does care about the Apple TV includes the fact that Apple started promoting the Apple TV in its own section of the Apple online store earlier in 2014. Previously Apple had put the Apple TV into the same section as the iPod, but, perhaps because the iPod sales are in decline this product has now been given its own spotlight.
New Apple TV rumours: Why Apple needs a new Apple TV
As we mention above, the current Apple TV was last updated in January 2013 (a very minor update) referred to as 'third generation, Rev A'. Some would say that the Apple TV was last significantly updated in March 2012 when it introduced the third generation model with the still in use A5 chip and 512MB RAM, and 1080p video capabilities. Along with 8GB Flash memory (not for customer use) and the 10cm x 10cm dimensions little has changed since Apple redesigned the Apple TV in March 2012.
This hasn't stopped Apple from selling loads of the little boxes, though. During the Code Conference on 28 May, Apple Senior Vice President of Internet Software and Services Eddy Cue revealed that Apple has sold total of 20 million Apple TVs, making more than $1 billion for the company in fiscal 2013.
Apple has a great deal of competition in the TV streaming field, much of which offers more content and better features as you can see from our Apple TV alternatives article here. Having assessed what's on offer from the competition we concluded that Apple TV needs more UK OnDemand content if it is to be taken seriously here in the UK.
Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster thinks that the launch of the FireTV by Amazon (launched at the beginning of April) should spur Apple on to update the Apple TV. Munster told investors that he believes the Apple TV should become a "focus product line" for Apple, notes Apple Insider.
Another reason why Apple needs to update the Apple TV is the poor state of the TV experience - specifically cable TV. According to Jean-Louis Gassée (one time head of Apple France) as noted on his blog, cable TV delivery is flawed, and that is made worse by the fact that the US gets poor broadband for a higher price than other countries. Suggesting that "Carriers take too much money for a user-hostile experience simply because they can".
He adds: "In most locations, cable companies have little or no competition, so there’s no reason for them to do anything more than milk the most profit from a cheap infrastructure." Gassée notes that even where he is based, in Paris, the cable TV experience is a poor one, where users have to "juggle set-top box restarts and malfunctioning secondary content subscriptions" and suggests that Apple could "collapse this maze on impenetrable interfaces into one box".
This dismay with the cable TV offering is likely to be one reason why many are talking about Apple and Comcast working together in the US (as discussed below).
What does Tim Cook say about the Apple TV?
Apple CEO Tim Cook has had plenty to say about television over the past few years. In an televised interview with Charlie Rose in September he said: "Think how much your life has changed, and all the things around you that have changed, and yet TV, when you go into the living room to watch TV or wherever it may be, it almost feels like you're rewinding the clock and you've entered a time capsule and you're going backwards. The interface is terrible, I mean it's awful. You watch things when they come on unless you remember to record them."
Cook has often reiterated that the Apple TV is "no longer a hobby product for Apple". The compnay has sold more than 20 million of the set top boxes. He has also noted that Apple has 'taken a stab' at TV with Apple TV and claimed that it is an area Apple continues to look at.
What did Steve Jobs think of the Apple TV?
Steve Jobs always used to describe the Apple TV as a "hobby" but in the last years of his life he seemed to be won over to the idea that Apple could take a place in the living room. Jobs' biographer asked him about television and Jobs said he'd cracked it, leading to much speculation that Apple has big plans to improve it's Apple TV, or perhaps offer an actual Apple television set, sometimes referred to as iTV.
Jobs told Isaacson: "I’d like to create an integrated television set that is completely easy to use. It would be seamlessly synced with all of your devices and with iCloud. No longer would users have to fiddle with complex remotes for DVD players and cable channels. It will have the simplest use interface you could imagine. I finally cracked it."
However, Jobs wasn't all for the entry into the television market. According to claims in a book, Apple's late CEO and co-founder Steve Jobs had ruled out selling a television. The revelation appears in Haunted Empire: Apple After Steve Jobs by former Wall Street Journal reporter Yukari Iwatani Kane. Kane claims that on one occasion at a company retreat Jobs was asked whether Apple intended to release a television set and his response was: "no". Jobs went on to describe TV as a "terrible business," stating that "they don't turn over and the margins suck".
Despite this, further evidence has appeared that suggests that television was an area that Apple is interested in. As part of the Apple versus Samsung legal proceedings an email from Steve Jobs from October 2010 emerged that sheds some light on the importance of the Apple TV, which Apple was still describing as a hobby product at the time. In the rough agenda for a meeting, Jobs notes the strategy is to: "Stay in the living room game and make a great "must have" accessory for iOS devices."
The email suggests that part of the strategy will be to add content from NBC, CBS, Viacom and HBO. In addition, Jobs mentioned TV subscriptions, apps, and browser. This suggests that the company has been considering working with TV companies to offer subscriptions, as well as creating apps for the Apple TV for some time.
Also mentioned in the Steve Jobs email being presented in court in the Apple vs Samsung case is a "magic wand" for use with the Apple TV. The magic wand idea has also leaked in the past, with claims that Apple was looking at ways of controlling the Apple TV using motion. You can read the whole Steve Jobs email here.
Apple TV rumours: Why is the new Apple TV delayed?
The current Apple TV was last updated in January 2013 (a very minor update). It was expected that Apple would update the Apple TV in late 2013, but it failed to do so. Why hasn't Apple updated the Apple TV for so long?
For some time reports have been claiming that the new Apple TV box might be delayed while Apple is negotiating with content providers to arrive at deals that could see users having access to even more content on Apple's new set-top box when it launches.
Apple is said to have been negotiating a deal with content providers in the US with a view to adding more content to the Apple TV before the next version of the hardware is launched, according to Bloomberg. Talks with Time Warner had been on-going but were scuppered, as discussed above, when it emerged that Comcast is requesting to buy Time Warner Cable for more than $40 billion. According to Bloomberg sources, Apple has "run into a problem" dealing with Comcast in the past, but then a later report, discussed below, suggests that talks may be back on track.
However, as mentioned above, at the end of July, further delays (to 2015) were being put down to negotiations with Comcast/Time Warner.
Apple is also said to be attempting to do a deal with other TV providers that would see Apple TV users having access to the five most recently-aired episodes of shows for three days after they air.
From the perspective of the UK the Comcast/Time Warner issues are the least of Apple's problems. Apple needs to bring the UK OnDemand channels to the Apple TV, it is unacceptible that Apple is the only set top box not to offer iPlayer, 4OD and the like.
What are the Apple TV & Comcast rumours?
As we mention above, Apple is rumoured to be in negotiations with Comcast, the largest television cable company and internet service provider in the US with a view to working with the company to bring the next version of the Apple TV to market.
Comcast, which has owned NBCUniversal since 2011, produces film and television content, operates cable channels and film studio Universal Pictures. Back in February 2014 Comcast agreed to merge with Time Warner Cable in an equity swap deal worth $45.2 billion. Apple is said to have been working on a deal with Time Warner Cable for some time, but the negotiations were thought to have been scuppered by the proposed Comcast buyout.
The latest report, which appeared in the Wall Street Journal in March, suggests that the negotiations have continued, with Apple and Comcast attempting to reach agreement.
It is thought that Comcast could benefit from a deal with Apple in a number of ways, especially at a time when more and more cable customers are cutting the cord in favour of on-demand services.
It is thought that the deal with Apple and Comcast could see Comcast replace the customer’s cable box with an Apple TV. It is suggested that customers will be happier with a user interface and hardware provided by Apple, and this will lower the cost of leasing the box.
Comcast will benefit from leaving Apple to secure content rights – as long as Apple doesn't price the service higher than traditional pay-TV services.
One area of contention is likely to be Apple's desire that users subscribe to Comcast services on the device itself, using their Apple ID credentials, and therefore Comcast will not have access to this customer data.
Apple will benefit because it will get priority treatment on Comcast’s network. By partnering with a cable company, Apple could get "managed service" status, which addresses the problems of net neutrality. If this system was implemented its Apple TV traffic would be separated from public traffic in the final mile, so users would get better bandwidth. This last mile is usually reserved by the cable company for its own services. Net neutrality rulings suggest that this practice shouldn't be allowed, but in January an appeals court ruled that ISPs like Comcast are legally able to prioritise some content over others.
Comcast has been the subject of criticism for its stance on net neutrality. Net neutrality rules are intended to stop ISPs charging companies like Netflix extra fees to ensure their customers receive high-quality service. Netflix and Comcast recently came to an agreement that ensures that Comcast's Netflix users have a good experience.
Apple will benefit if the Apple TV is able to bypass congestion on the web. However, according to the WSJ, Apple isn’t asking for its traffic to be prioritised by Comcast, just for its traffic to be part of Comcast’s managed services, in order to abide with the net neutrality rules that prevent Comcast from discriminating against some network traffic.
Jean-Louis Gassée is sceptical about the credibility of the Comcast and Apple rumours. He seconds Philip Elmer-DeWitt's suggestion that The Wall Street Journal was "played by someone intent on throwing a wrench into Comcast's plan to acquire Time Warner's cable operations".
The latest in the Comcast Apple saga is the revelation that Comcast has revealed that Apple is working on a new set-top box. It noted Apple's plans in its US Federal Communications filing that is part of its efforts to get the go-ahead for its proposed acquisition of Time Warner Cable.
The mention of Apple came as Comcast sought to demonstrate that its competitors are looking for new ways to get content to customers. Comcast claimed that Apple is exploring "development of an Apple set-top box" in the filing.
Comcast for the US, what about Europe and UK? Apple and Virgin Media? Sky?
That's all very well, but what does this news mean to UK and European Apple TV owners. Not a lot. Comcast hasn't had a foot on UK soil since it sold its UK division to NTL in February 1998.
NTL went on to become Virgin Media, which is probably the UK's closest equivalent to Comcast. This is where it gets interesting: in 2013 Virgin Media was taken over by Liberty Global.
Liberty Global is the owner of 11 cable companies in Europe making it the largest cable operator in Europe with 18.4 million subscribers. It has a foothold in the UK, Poland, Switzerland, Belgium, Ireland, Austria, Slovakia, Hungary and the Czech Republic. It recently announced that it would acquire Dutch cable company Ziggo.
If Apple is looking for the European equivalent of Comcast to do business with in Europe, Liberty Global would be the obvious choice.
Incidentally, Liberty Global has a stake in Charter Communications, which was also pursuing Time Warner Cable, although unsuccessfully, given the news that Comcast will be merging with Time Warner.
Liberty Global's chairman John Malone is also chairman of television giant Discovery Communications, who make programming for The Discovery Channel, Animal Planet and other channels.
In his heyday, Malone controlled TCI (Tele-Communications Inc), which was the biggest cable operator in the United States for many years until he sold the systems. It was eventually purchased by AT&T, whose cable TV assets were later acquired by Charter Communications and Comcast.
Incidentally, Malone also owns a controlling stake in Sirius XM Radio, to which iTunes Radio could be considered a competitor.
Should Apple be negotiating a deal with Liberty Global in Europe the company may be in luck: Malone is a self-confessed Apple fan. In an interview with the Denver Post last year he revealed that he is "addicted to the iPad". He also owns an Apple desktop, a MacBook Air and an iPhone. However, he isn't a fan of the iPhone because the battery dies to fast: "I like the Apple ecosystem, I’m comfortable with it. But the iPhone battery life is probably the thing that keeps me from being 100 percent Apple," he said.
In the same interview, Malone shared his thoughts that the major cable operators need to consolidate in order to drive down programming costs and to achieve the scale needed to compete with internet giants such as Apple and Google. "The industry, without that co-operation, doesn't have enough scale to be a serious player in a global world," he said, adding that Google and Apple "are basically thinking in terms of billions of customers rather than tens of millions".
Liberty Global's CEO Mike Fries doesn't expect Apple to sell a television, though. He told Bloomberg last September: "I don't think Apple is going to build a TV." He revealed that Apple's strategy is talking to cable providers about revamping the interface for pay-TV services, one might conclude that Apple had been talking to him.
Another possibility is Apple teaming up with Sky. The Sky Now TV app already exists on the Apple TV, offering the Entertainment Month Pass, Movies Month Pass and the Sky Sports Day pass.