Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) introduced a new version of its Apple TV device that offers voice-recognition functions, unified video search across Netflix, Hulu and other services, as well as an app store that will allow users to download games and other apps. However, absent from Apple's announcement was any mention of offering live TV services or access into pay-TV options. Apple reportedly had been in discussions with the likes of NBC, ABC and CBS to offer a package of TV services on its TV device, but recent reports have indicated that those discussions are ongoing and that Apple would not launch a streaming video service until sometime next year.
Apple plans to begin selling its new TV puck in late October in around 80 countries, expanding to 100 countries by the end of the year. The 32 GB version of the new Apple TV will sell for $149 and the 64 GB version of the device will cost $199. The gadget sports a 64-bit A8 chip and 802.11ac Wi-Fi functions, and it runs Apple's new tvOS operating system, which is based on the iOS operating system that runs the company's iPhones and iPads.
In announcing the new Apple TV, Apple CEO Tim Cook described the device as "a new foundation for TV." He said that the Apple TV merges apps and TV services with a touch- and speech-capable remote control.
In a demonstration of the Apple TV, Apple executives showed how users will be able to interact with the company's speech-recognition service, Siri, to search for a range of content. For example, users will be able to ask for "James Bond movies starring Sean Connery," and the service will display only those options. Importantly, those results will be culled by a universal search encompassing iTunes, Netflix, HBO, Hulu and Showtime. Apple executives said the company plans to add more services in the future, but they did not provide details.
Apple's new TV isn't the first device to feature speech recognition. For example, Comcast already announced its new X1 remote that will support spoken search commands.
Aside from the video content available on the device, Apple said its new Apple TV will also support the company's App Store, allowing developers to create games and other apps that users will be able to download and access. The company showed off apps including the iOS game Crossy Road and Beat Sports from Harmonix, the company behind the popular Rock Band video games. The company also showed a shopping app from Gilt.
Users can control the games with Apple's remote, which features an accelerometer that measures movement, as well as a touchscreen.
"The future of TV is apps," said Apple's Eddy Cue in introducing the device.
Interestingly, Apple also showed off an Apple TV app from MLB.com that allows users to view HD, 60 fps highlights from baseball games. Users can click to view statistics on the game in real time, and can also watch two games at once using a split screen. The app potentially hints at the types of apps Apple may be working to offer on its new TV.
Apple said developers can use Xcode, Metal, Game Center and other iOS tools to build apps for tvOS. Importantly, Apple counts around 11 million registered developers.
Apple isn't the first company to target the intersection of games and TV services. Microsoft's Xbox and Sony's Playstation both offer TV services, while Amazon has worked to add apps to its Fire TV stick.
Apple's TV plans have been a reliable topic of conversation ever since Apple founder Steve Jobs told biographer Walter Isaacson in 2011 that "I'd like to create an integrated television set that is completely easy to use. It would be seamlessly synched with all of your devices and with iCloud. It will have the simplest user interface you could imagine. I finally cracked it."
Indeed, just two months ago Re/code reported that Apple is looking to add live feeds from local TV stations to its upcoming online pay-TV service. Already, Comcast (NASDAQ: CMCSA) has announced its Stream service that will offer content from the NBC, CBS, Fox, ABC and HBO. But Comcast's Stream will only be available to its Xfinity customers.
- see this release
Special Report: Complete coverage: Apple iPhone 6S and iPhone 6S Plus
Apple Music, Sling TV pave the way for Apple's TV strategy ... but time is running out
Fourth-gen Apple TV reportedly set to roll out in October for $199
TV Everywhere usage up 200% in Q2, FreeWheel report says