An upgraded version of Apple TV may finally be on its way. John Paczkowski, formerly of Re/Code and AllThingsD, reports for BuzzFeed that the next-generation version of the set-top box is “once again top of mind and at last headed to market — and for real this time.” Sources familiar with Apple’s plans tell BuzzFeed News that the company will announce the next version of Apple TV in September, at the same event where it usually unveils new iPhones.
“Expect a refreshed and slimmer chassis and new innards,” Paczkowski reports, “Apple’s A8 system on chip; a new remote that sources say has been ‘drastically improved’ by a touch-pad input; an increase in on-board storage; and an improved operating system that will support Siri voice control.” But most importantly, the new Apple TV will debut with a long-awaited App Store, plus a software development kit that developers will need to create apps for it.
That adds up to a significant update to the set-top box, which hasn’t seen a real refresh since 2012. As Jacob Kastrenakes reports for The Verge, these expected features sound familiar because BuzzFeed reported on most of them in the spring, when the publication said that Apple was planning to update Apple TV in June. Those plans seem to have been pushed back to make time for Apple to further polish the device.
Apple likely hopes that a fall release will kickstart an upgrade cycle over the holidays, and that would set the stage for the streaming TV service that Apple has been expected to launch for years. Sources tell BuzzFeed that Apple isn’t currently planning to announce that service along with the new Apple TV. One said that that announcement is more likely to come “late this year — maybe, but more likely next year.”
Paczkowski notes that while launching new Apple TV hardware separately from a new streaming service might seem counterintuitive, it does make sense if Apple hasn’t yet finalized the licensing deals it needs to make the TV subscription service a reality. By releasing the new Apple TV and SDK ahead of the streaming service, Apple would both give developers more time to create compelling apps for the platform and leverage the holiday season to grow the Apple TV user base — to which it will eventually want to sell streaming service subscriptions.
John Greenough reports for Business Insider that a revamped Apple TV could have “huge smart home implications,” noting that the features Apple is expected to integrate into the next generation of the device could make it a particularly attractive “remote” for smart home devices on Apple’s HomeKit platform. Without a device that can control all of a smart home’s devices and appliances, a smart home would be difficult for users to manage.
Luke Dormehl reported for Cult of Mac last week that devices for Apple’s HomeKit are rolling out slower than expected, in part because Apple reportedly requires anyone making a third-party HomeKit device to buy and use a special identity chip. This is consistent with Apple’s insistence on cutting-edge security protocols for Bluetooth LE devices, though it’s unknown at what stage Apple added the ID chip to its HomeKit requirements, or what exactly the HomeKit ID chip does. In fact, not much has been revealed about HomeKit since it was launched with iOS 8.
Kevin Tofel at ZDNet explores the possibility that it could have been HomeKit that pushed a new Apple TV back to a September launch. We’ve known for a while that the next-generation Apple TV will be a gateway for HomeKit devices, offering users remote access to lights, switches, and HVAC controls. That remote access will be set up either through Apple’s cloud service, or some kind of network connection. It’s possible that Apple hasn’t finalized the remote access functionality yet, or that Apple is sorting out the factors behind HomeKit’s changing requirements, which have made its launch lackluster, at best.
As Tofel notes, “HomeKit hasn’t really arrived yet.” Controlling HomeKit products through an Apple TV is likely to be a big part of the device’s functionality. The slow pace of progress on HomeKit may be an important factor in the delay of the next generation of Apple TV because, as Tofel notes, rolling out a device that will serve as a gateway for HomeKit before there are many HomeKit products available doesn’t seem like a move that Apple would make.