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Where does the Apple TV go next?

Michael Simon | Aug. 4, 2016
As it expands from a box to a platform, the Apple TV could transform home entertainment.

Jared Newman

Someday soon your set-top box could be your DVR and cable box too. 

If it becomes a mandate, it would allow Apple TV to become the primary box in our living rooms. It’s a move that would elevate Apple TV without the complexity and cost of negotiating a deal to sell “skinny” channel bundles. The beauty of Apple TV is its interface, and with tvOS powering the grid, there would no longer be a need to have a separate DVR and set-top streamer, putting Apple TV at the center of our home theaters.

Front row

As it stands, Apple TV is designed to be a background device, the rare Apple product that isn’t meant to be seen. It looks nice, but its case is utilitarian; people buy Apple TV strictly for what it does, not how it looks. But if Apple has plans on expanding Apple TV’s role, the maturation of tvOS could impel some serious design changes.

It’s not just the potential to turn it into a DVR (which wouldn’t require many external changes at all, save perhaps the addition of a digital clock). If Apple TV is a platform as Cook says, there’s no limit to how it could be implemented. Apple could treat tvOS like it does CarPlay, partnering with third-party device manufacturers to expand their appeal and capabilities, while appealing to a whole new subset of users.

Apple could build tvOS into other devices, or even license it for products like this Sonos Playbar soundbar. 

And if Apple TV truly wants to dominate our living rooms, video isn’t the only path. With a very Apple-like “it just works” system, Sonos has shown that a drop-dead simple set of speakers can perform just as well as a 5.1 channel receiver and a tangle of speaker wires. With built-in tvOS, an Apple soundbar would be the ultimate home hub, offering an always-on solution for everything the company is trying to accomplish. At once, Apple would have a front-and-center device with Siri capabilities and HomeKit integration that acts as the gatekeeper for the smart home.

Silver screen

And then, of course, there’s the TV itself. While it was a hot rumor following Steve Jobs’ famous “I finally cracked it” proclamation, we haven’t heard much about Apple building a flat-screen TV for a few years now, and it would seem that Apple has abandoned the idea.

But the despite the proliferation of smaller screens in our lives, the TV isn’t about to lose its place as the centerpiece of our living rooms (and in essence, our homes). Any current or future Apple TV incarnation obviously needs a TV to operate, and it’s foolish to think there aren’t a few prototypes hanging on the walls in Jony Ive’s office. It could be that Apple wants to perfect the Apple TV box first; once it’s built in to a full-fledged television set, there is far less room for error. But you shouldn’t discount the possibility down the road.

But whatever form it takes, it’s clear that Apple has big plans for its Apple TV. Over the past 10 years, Apple has learned a lot from its hobby. And now it just might be ready to turn pro.


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