Does the Ap­ple TV have a fu­ture?

Ap­ple’s set-top box is stuck in be­tween two worlds. Dan Moren re­ports

iPad&iPhone user - - CONTENTS -

The Ap­ple TV: per­haps the most unloved of Ap­ple’s ma­jor plat­forms? Even though the Ap­ple TV has been around about as long as the iPhone – it was ac­tu­ally shown off by Steve Jobs be­fore the iPhone’s an­nounce­ment, though it was then called the ‘iTV’ – the set-top box has long seemed an af­ter­thought for the com­pany.

That’s only in­creased more re­cently as Ap­ple has em­barked upon part­ner­ships with third-party mak­ers of tele­vi­sions and set-top com­peti­tors

to ex­pand the foot­print of its Ap­ple TV+ ser­vice, bring­ing those de­vices fea­tures such as the Ap­ple TV app and AirPlay 2.

Still, re­cent ru­mours sug­gest that an up­dated Ap­ple TV may be wait­ing in the wings, though what en­hance­ments it might fea­ture are largely any­body’s guess. But with all of the changes in the stream­ing world and Ap­ple’s po­si­tion in it, is there still room for the Ap­ple TV as a dis­tinct prod­uct?


Stream­ing hard­ware is om­nipresent these days. Al­most every TV on the mar­ket has its own built-in suite of apps for stream­ing pop­u­lar ser­vices like Net­flix and Ama­zon Prime, and many boast ex­ten­sive cat­a­logues of apps. Like­wise, Ap­ple faces stiff com­pe­ti­tion from other pop­u­lar ven­dors of set-top boxes, in­clud­ing Ama­zon and Roku, al­most all of whom of­fer de­vices sig­nif­i­cantly cheaper than the Ap­ple TV.

Stream­ing boxes have, for bet­ter or worse, be­come com­modi­tized. When you can watch Net­flix on half a dozen dif­fer­ent de­vices in your house, it’s hard to make an ar­gu­ment for buy­ing the one that starts at £149 (and that’s not even for the pricier mod­els that sup­port 4K video).

Yes, Ap­ple has po­si­tioned the Ap­ple TV as a pre­mium de­vice, and it does of­fer fea­tures that other stream­ing boxes only put in their own high-end units, if at all, such as sup­port for the Dolby Vi­sion stan­dard. But many con­sumers aren’t even aware of those high-end stan­dards – many have just got to the point of up­grad­ing to 4K.

Which leaves Ap­ple TV’s main sell­ing point as its over­all in­te­gra­tion with the Ap­ple ecosys­tem. And since Ap­ple is now of­fer­ing its stream­ing ser­vice on other man­u­fac­tur­ers’ de­vices, that nar­rows the ex­clu­siv­ity of that syn­ergy to fewer cat­e­gories, chief among them the App Store.


While the App Store on the Ap­ple TV is sur­pris­ingly robust com­pared to many of its com­peti­tors in the set-top

space, it pales in com­par­i­son

to what’s of­fered on Ap­ple’s other ma­jor plat­forms. Apps for the Ap­ple TV mainly fall into two cat­e­gories: watch­ing video con­tent and games.

Games is one place where Ap­ple would seem to have a legup on com­pe­ti­tion, thanks to the com­mon­al­i­ties be­tween tvOS and the games pow­er­house that is iOS/iPadOS. And yet games on the Ap­ple TV have never re­ally taken off. Even re­cent ad­di­tions like sup­port for wire­less game con­trollers from Mi­crosoft and Sony haven’t done much to turn the Ap­ple TV into a ma­jor player in the game con­sole mar­ket.

In large part that’s be­cause Ap­ple’s stuck be­tween a rock and a hard place. Whereas con­soles from Mi­crosoft, Sony and even Nin­tendo may be pricier propo­si­tions, they’re game­play­ing de­vices first and stream­ing de­vices sec­ond. The Ap­ple TV is just the re­verse, po­ten­tially po­si­tion­ing it as the worst of both worlds: too ex­pen­sive when stacked against most stream­ing boxes, and not game-fo­cused enough to com­pete with the Xbox and PlayS­ta­tion.


The other big weak­ness in the Ap­ple TV’s line-up is its re­mote. Much of Ap­ple’s in­no­va­tive en­gi­neer­ing on the Ap­ple TV has gone into de­sign­ing the Siri Re­mote, which fea­tures a track­pad as well as a mi­cro­phone for us­ing the epony­mous vir­tual as­sis­tant.

While those fea­tures are clever, the fo­cus on them has made the re­mote con­tentious, largely be­cause they’ve made it less func­tional for its pri­mary pur­pose of be­ing a re­mote. For

Roku (pic­tured), Ama­zon, and oth­ers pro­vide stiff com­pe­ti­tion in the set-top box mar­ket.

Did you know that with Ap­ple Ar­cade, the Ap­ple TV has ac­cess to over 100 games? Do you even care?

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