Apple CEO Tim Cook's admission last week that television is an area of intense interest to Apple has lead to much speculation about what Apple might have up its sleeve when it comes to the future of TV. Today reports are suggesting that the next version of iOS may add Bluetooth functionality to Apple's set top box, the Apple TV, that could set that device on its way to taking over the living room. Reports are also suggesting that Apple would be wise to develop that device further rather than attempt to create a full television. 

Apple appears to be already attempting to make the existing Apple TV easier to use. A new update to the Apple TV will make it possible to use a Bluetooth keyboard with it, according to reports. 

The new feature was spotted in latest Apple TV beta and should ship as part of iOS 6.1. It would enable users to control their Apple TV via a wireless keyboard, rather than attempt to 'type' using the Apple Remote. At the moment the only other way to input information is via an iOS device.

The ability to use a keyboard with the Apple TV would make navigation of the iTunes Store and YouTube much easier.

The keyboard input will offer more than the ability to type the name of the TV show or film you wish to locate on the iTunes Store. You will be able to use arrow keys for navigation, the Return key to play or pause, and the Escape key to back-step, writes 9to5mac.

Bluetooth speakers, mice, Siri, games controller? 

What else could a Bluetooth connection to the Apple TV enable? According to a 9to5Mac report, the Bluetooth connection will not enable the use of Bluetooth speakers or mice. Nor will you be able to connect a Mac via Bluetooth. However, the news suggests that the Apple TV could pair with third-party remotes, notes 9to5Mac.

Could extra remote functionality also indicate that Apple could bring games to the Apple TV? We have previously speculated that the Apple TV could become a games console, with iOS already being a popular gaming platform.

Another suggestion is that a Bluetooth connected remote could also include a mic for Siri input, allowing users to control the Apple TV via speech.

All this begs the question, does Apple really need to create a full television, or could it just improve the Apple TV set top box?

Is there any need for an Apple Television? 

Wells Fargo Securities analyst Maynard Um believes a full television set is still likely because it would be "more in tune with Apple's strategy" than an enhanced set-top box. In a research note he said he believes Apple would "relish" the opportunity to place the company's logo as "the centerpiece of the living room," reports AppleInsider.

Um speculates that: "Apple will eventually enter this market and round out the fourth and only missing screen in its ecosystem."

However, Um notes that Apple has a hurdle to get over in providing content, specifically live TV. Because Apple will need to secure deals for live TV before launch, he thinks it is unlikely that an Apple Television will launch before the second half of 2013, or even 2014.

Others are less convinced that a Apple smart television is such a good idea for Apple. The television industry is presented as being in turmoil by one report. "Sharp is in trouble and may leave the consumer television business. Toshiba also cut television production in a bid to return to some level of operating profit. Sony's television business is making a loss quarter-on-quarter and is now in crisis mode. Samsung, well, it's doing OK for the time being," writes ZDnet.

Former Apple executive Jean-Louis Gassée, writing in his blog this weekend, also notes some of the issues currently facing the TV industry: "Sony is trying to break free from its profitless HDTV past by building a new 4KTV business," he says.

We noted a few months ago that Panasonic had decided to pull out of the TV market. The company will instead focus on creating LCD displays for devices such as Apple's iPad. According to that report, building LCD panels for portable electronics is much more profitable.

ZDnet notes a two issues faced by the television market: televisions last too long and television manufacturers "don't have the same loyalty from their customers".

Apple should ignore the television, says ex Apple exec

Gassée thinks that the set-top box is what Apple should reinvent, rather than the television itself. He goes so far as to state: "I simply don’t believe Apple will make, or even wants to make, a TV set," he writes. 

This weekend Gassée wrote a blog suggesting that it’s not the TV that needs reinventing but rather the set top box. He writes: "Cook has one thing right: The set-top box experience does place one back in time by 20 to 30 years," Gassée said.

"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," Gassée writes.

He 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."

Gassée suggests that by mentioning TV at all, Cook is partly just answering an interviewers question, and partly "indicating that he’ll continue to invest talent and money until the TV obstacles are finally surmounted."

His thoughts echo those of a Wall Street Journal report earlier this year that suggested that rather than build a full television, Apple would add advanced cloud-based DVR functionality to the existing Apple TV.

Whatever the plans for the Apple television, last week Apple CEO Tim Cook fuelled speculation by saying: "When I go into my living room and turn on the TV, I feel like I have gone backwards in time by 20 to 30 years. It's an area of intense interest. I can't say more than that."

Follow Karen Haslam on Twitter / Follow MacworldUK on Twitter


Analyst says Apple doesn't have space for television

Apple TV set-top box may be a dead end

Apple aiming to turn Apple TV into games console