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Apple TV Update: Apple TV Set Can Redefine the Connected TV Experience at WWDC


By: Corey Tate
Follow me: Google+ | Twitter | LinkedIn
June 4, 2012

The Apple TV set  seems to be getting renewed interest again after last week's AllThings D conference. The latest rumors and news point to ideas that an Apple TV update might be part of a combined package, with both the Apple TV set top box and an Apple TV set as part of an overall vision for the connected TV.  Apple analyst Gene Munster was quoteworthy again, this time waxing about the Apple TV set, saying “We believe ‘if’ has been decided and the question is now ‘when.’ We stand by our previously stated timeline of unveiling the TV late this year with a launch in the first half of 2013 (6 months following the unveiling).” What's more: BoyGeniusReport is now predicting the Apple TV set at the WWDC by saying there's a new Apple TV OS too: "This new OS is said to be much more feature-complete than the current OS that runs on the Apple TV, and is apparently the one that Apple’s upcoming HDTV will run."

Apple TV Set

Munster also thinks that this could come with a renewed emphasis in areas that Apple and the Apple TV set-top box have been tapping, but reconfigured and reimagined into an improved user experience Think of the Apple App Store and how it could become an even bigger hub for games. As far as movies and TV shows, Apple TV has a chance to redefine an existing phenomenon we already see play out everyday: the unbundling of channels as they exist in cable TV land and even the unbundling of shows from being tied to specific networks. Why subscribe to an entire network if you only like 1 -2 shows on that network? “Ultimately we believe that consumers and Apple want unbundled channels and more options including time shifting to watch content, but note that content owners are hesitant to change,” said Munster. Apple is known for providing that of-the-moment catalyst for change in an industry, and Apple TV could play on that. Smartphones had been around for years before the iPhone, and yet everyone still thinks Apple invented the smartphone. Their timing around product launch was good, that's all.

9to5Mac also just spoke of an iTunes Store redesign that will also hit the App Store and iBookStore, saying “According to sources familiar with Apple’s upcoming iOS 6 mobile software offering, the company’s three major digital stores will see design overhauls. The overhauls are said to be major and they focus on improved interactivity when making purchases in iTunes, the App Store, and the iBookstore.”

We can also reconsider what I said last week, that this isn't necessarily an Apple TV set only type of thing. This transformation could happen on the Apple TV set-top box as well ... we have two distinct things here: hardware and software. The software can live on both the set-top box and an Apple TV set. One is a high-end premium product that consumers always have an appetite for (even in an economic downturn) and an Apple TV set-top box brings the product to the masses, and can bring Apple up to date on the current favorite holy grail of the media industry: streaming subscriptions. The iTunes Store still thrives but becomes a more outdated model with each passing month, while streaming video from Hulu, Netflix, Roku and Google TV (YouTube et al) continue to grow and thrive. Streaming music services like Spotify, MOG, Rdio as well as Soundcloud, YouTube and others take over. Apple can be a hub for what they call your "digital lifestyle."

Apple TV Update

Gene Munster predicted a week ago that the Apple TV price might be about $1500 - $2000, could be sized somewhere around 42 - 55 inches and might capture up to 10% of the market in the first couple of years. We’re set to head off into the age of the connected TV, so the notion that a lot of consumers might use that as an excuse to buy a new TV over the next five years as that revolution happens and the economy improves seems imminent. Google will be launching a revamped experience for Google TV at some point, as they both clearly are considering the idea of how and when to jump in. The Apple TV vs Google TV war isn't over, it's hardly started.

Siri is also another big factor at play here. We don't know how much Siri will be improved for the iPhone 5 release, but Apple TV seems likely for an Apple TV addition. Think about it ... a touch screen TV is nice, but do you want to get off the couch to change channels? Not everyone has an iPad or iPhone, and nobody needs another standard remote control. Why not just tell Siri what to look for or what TV show to play? “Siri is one of the most popular features of iPhone 4S,” Cook said to AllThingsD. “But there’s more that it can do, and we have a lot of people working on this. And I think you will be really pleased with some of the things you’re going to see over the coming months. We have some cool ideas about what Siri can do. We have a lot going on on this. … Sure, it can be broader, and so forth, but we see unbelievable potential here. We’re doubling down on it,” he said it at the AllThingsD conference last week:

Apple TV Release Date and Rumors

Everybody seems so fixated on the iPhone 5 release and the WWDC in a week and a half ... what if Apple were to announce the Apple TV set there instead? Or in addition to the iPhone? Why can't more than iPhone 5 talk happen at the WWDC? They wouldn't need to make the Apple TV release date, just preview what they've been working on.

Then again, others seem to see the Apple TV release date as either late this year or next year. I guess it comes down to three things: whether to launch in time for the holidays, whether the rush to be the first with a release date (Apple TV vs Google TV) is worth it, and the availability of the production sphere to work all the parts and assembly.

Another of the wildly speculative Apple TV rumors is the idea that Apple TV will include some kind of gesture control, something I fed off of last year with an “Apple TV 3 Update: Minority Report-style Menus with Kinect and Siri” article  to describe how motion control could be used to change channels. There's your Apple TV touch screen replacement / game changer ... and it's already an idea that's in the wild. Commercials for the Samsung Smart TV with voice control, motion control and face recognition are already being aired and the NY Times is running a piece this weekend on Kinect and what it's spawned. The future looks good for Apple TV and the connected TV, and we’re just getting started.

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