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What the next Apple TV needs to succeed

Dan Moren | Aug. 10, 2015
An Apple TV update has reportedly been in the cards for a few months now, and late last week, reports suggested that the much-awaited new version of the set-top box would arrive this fall.

Apple TV
Credit: Jared Newman

An Apple TV update has reportedly been in the cards for a few months now, and late last week, reports suggested that the much-awaited new version of the set-top box would arrive this fall.

But the question on everybody's mind is exactly what such an update will entail. The existing Apple TV has grown long in the tooth without a really substantial update since the second-generation version appeared in 2010. (The third generation, which debuted in 2012, added a better processor and support for 1080p.) No surprise there for a product that Apple executives have repeatedly categorized as a "hobby."

Meanwhile, competitors like Amazon, Roku, and Google have continued to raise the bar, adding support for apps, better search features, and new form factors. But Apple makes its bread and butter not by being first, but by entering a populated category and being the best. So when a new Apple TV does arrive, what might it bring?

Talk back to your TV

Voice interaction via Siri has become a staple of both the iPhone and Apple Watch, but the Apple TV has so far been left out on the fun. Rumor has it that Siri may at last make its way to the living room in the next iteration. This is far from unprecedented: Amazon's Fire TV supported simple voice search out of the box, and Microsoft's Kinect lets gamers control an Xbox, including media playback features, via voice commands.

When it comes to ubiquitous voice control Amazon's Echo is perhaps the most impressive implementation. The device's seven microphones do a fantastic job of picking up audio anywhere in a room (or several rooms) and parsing it. But that device is also designed around voice search as its basic function, and the form factor a set-top box (or dongle that plugs into an HDMI port) isn't ideal for that feature.

So what if Apple instead harnessed the Siri we already have--on our iPhones and our Watch--and made it a little smarter? If those devices could simply recognize that you have an Apple TV on a network, you could tell your phone to queue up a certain TV show on your Apple TV, or purchase a movie that you want to watch there later. Apple's biggest strength, after all, is its ecosystem. Rather than reinventing the wheel, it can leverage the resources already at its disposal.

Apps galore

After years of anticipation, it seems that the redesigned Apple TV might once and for all bring apps to the living room. Currently the set-top box supports a variety of channels, but rather than separate apps, they're each essentially different sections of the same "Apple TV app" that runs the set-top box.

 

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