Cape Times

Cook dusts off set-top box in bid to catch up

- Adam Satariano

APPLE unveiled a wide-ranging line-up of new products, including updated iPhones, a revamped TV set-top box for playing games and watching videos, and a bigger iPad designed for business customers.

Chief executive Tim Cook showcased the new products on Wednesday at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in San Francisco. The September gathering is Apple’s most anticipate­d annual event, and highlights the company’s gadgets and services ahead of the holiday shopping season.

Along with the Apple Watch and Apple Music service rolled out earlier this year, the devices advance Apple’s ambition of weaving its products into more areas of people’s lives. From fitness and health monitoring on the wrist, to communicat­ions and productivi­ty via phones, computers and tablets, to entertainm­ent in the living room, Apple has been steadily expanding its offerings as Cook chases new markets. The line-up could also help revive a share price that has dropped 17 percent from a February high.

The new iPhone models, called iPhone 6s and 6s Plus, will be available on September 25, with pre-orders starting on September 12. The two new phones start at $199 (R2 719) and $299 with a two-year carrier contract. Apple also introduced a new leasing programme for iPhone, starting at $32 a month, where users will pay for the device over time and have the chance to upgrade every year.

“While they may look familiar, we have changed everything about these new iPhones,” Cook said. “They are the most advanced smartphone­s in the new versions, which look like the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus that debuted last year, add an improved 12-megapixel camera, speedier processor and a new feature called 3D Touch that lets users make commands and reach shortcuts and menus by pressing down harder or softer on the screen. The handsets come in four colours – silver, gray, gold and rose gold. The iPhone remains the most important product to Apple’s business, accounting for more than 60 percent of its revenue last quarter. The stock has come under pressure amid questions about its long-term revenue prospects, particular­ly smartphone sales in China. Shares have fallen 17 percent since July 21, when the company reported lower-than-expected financial results.

The new phones offered speedier Wi-Fi and LTE wireless phone service, Apple said. The 3D Touch feature serves as a shortcut for commonly used applicatio­ns. For example, pressing down on the camera icon on the iPhone gives a quick entry point for taking a selfie. Pressing on an e-mail will give a preview of a new message. It also helps users navigate between apps.

The new Apple TV set-top box, the first overhaul of the product since 2012, will be available in late October. In addition to offering a gateway to viewing online videos from services such as Netflix, Hulu and Time Warner’s HBO, Apple is stepping up the device’s capabiliti­es with its own App Store. Developers will now be able to make games and other content for the box, as they have with iPhone and iPad. – Bloomberg SINCE Steve Jobs unveiled the iPhone and Apple TV at the same event in 2007, the two products have taken different paths.

The iPhone has gone through nine iterations to become the most successful consumer electronic­s product, generating $102 billion (R1.4 trillion) in sales in the last financial year. While it got full-court press advertisin­g campaigns and developmen­t efforts, the settop television box was treated largely as an afterthoug­ht. The hardware hadn’t been updated since 2012. Apple never used its marketing muscle to convince people to buy one.

With the model introduced on Wednesday, chief executive Tim Cook shook the secondary status off Apple TV, dressing it up with Siri voice-recognitio­n software, video games, an App Store and a touch-enabled remote control in Apple’s most significan­t attempt to reach customers in the living room.

But success is far from assured when it hits stores next month. For one thing, versions will sell for $149 and $199, making it more expensive than rivals. And the market is crowded with competitor­s that boast many features that are new to Apple TV.’s Fire TV, for instance, has an app store and voice-based search features – which the online retailer was happy to point out.

“We’ve thought that apps and voice are the future of TV since we launched Amazon Fire TV 16 months ago,” Amazon said. “We’re flattered that Apple agrees with us.”

There’s a crush of companies vying to reach people who are viewing an increasing amount of TV programmin­g online and outside the traditiona­l cable package. Roku and Google’s Chromecast also give people the ability to access Netflix, HBO and other streaming services. Video-game enthusiast­s may still be likely to turn to video-game consoles from Microsoft and Sony.

“Apple obviously knows this is an important area, but despite repeated attempts hasn’t been really able to take hold of the market,” James McQuivey, an analyst at Forrester Research, said. – Bloomberg

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