Today at its press conference event, Apple finally took the wraps off of a number of new products, including the new Apple TV, the iPad Pro, and the iPhone 6S. The former device is Apple's pitch at your living room, a space that others have aimed for with devices like the Google Nexus Player, Amazon Fire TV, and Nvidia Shield. As I've said before, this space has been growing and Apple's older set-top has seen some success, so this new box is a larger push by the completely towards that market.
Despite the rumors of a potential TV service, the new Apple TV is actually rather safe. The box itself looks largely same as its predecessor, but with a decent spec bump. The Apple TV now runs on Apple's A8 chip, versus the A5 chip in the last model, bringing the tiny box in line with the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. The big hardware change is the new Siri Remote, which features a microphone for Siri-enabled search, an integrated touch pad for navigation, and built-in accelerometer and gyroscope. The full specs are as follows:
- 64-bit A8 processor
- 32GB or 64GB of storage
- 2GB of RAM
- 10/100Mbps Ethernet
- WiFi 802.11a/b/g/n/ac
- 1080p resolution
- New Siri Remote / Apple TV Remote
It's worth noting that despite 32 or 64GB storage options on the new Apple TV, there is no local storage for apps on the AppleTV. According to developer documentation, all apps are stored on iCloud.
The big focus of the new Apple TV is the operating system and software though.
"Our vision for TV is simple and perhaps a bit provocative. The future of television is apps," said Apple CEO Tim Cook on stage.
Apple has revamped the original Apple TV operating system and built something new called tvOS. Based on iOS, tvOS looks to bring a unique user experience to AppleTV, heavily built around the new remote and Siri-enabled search. Like the Fire TV or Nexus Player, the idea is that you ask Siri for specific content and she delivers it you to seamlessly. If you say "I want movies with Tom Cruise running," Siri will theoretically offer up every Mission: Impossible film, Edge of Tomorrow, and Vanilla Sky from a variety of sources, including iTunes, Hulu, and HBO.
This content search will extend to other apps, which is where gaming enters the picture. No, the new AppleTV isn't as gaming-focused as some of the rumors said, but Apple did spend some time talking about gaming on the box. Gaming controls are on the Siri Remote, utilizing the touchpad and motion controls to accomplish everything. That means you can swipe, tap, tilt, or swing the remote to interact with available games.
On stage, Apple showed off demos and hints of iOS hit Crossy Road (now with co-op multiplayer), Asphalt 8, Disney Infinity, Guitar Hero, Galaxy on Fire 3, Rayman Adventures, and Transistor. The stage demo also spent a good deal of time with BeatSports, a music-heavy sports experience from Harmonix. BeatSports enlightened me on the potential audience for the AppleTV.
BeatSports, from the game's presentation to the simple, swinging motion controls, reminded me of WiiSports. In fact, the Apple TV's gaming experiences all felt like Wii games. The AppleTV has the potential to hit the Wii's Blue Ocean crowd, the large swath of players who picked up a Wii, enjoyed it, and never came back to the gaming industry. Those consumers will feel right at home with gaming on the AppleTV. The gaming should be "good enough" for them.
And Apple is drawing on a larger ecosystem than Google or Amazon, with developers who are more primed to create unique or tailored content for Apple's new platform. Being able to leverage that ecosystem and incentivize those developers to make AppleTV games is where Apple has a leg up on the competition. iOS and tvOS apps stretch across both ecosystems and developers can enable a universal purchases, meaning if users buy an iOS app, they get the adjoining tvOS version.
Unlike the Nexus Player or the Fire TV, Apple doesn't even try to offer a traditional controller as an extra option. Existing iOS game controllers seem to work, but that's as far as Apple goes. It's the Siri Remote or bust. That's the input device Apple intends devs to use.
If this competitive with console games? No. It this a revolution in home gaming? No. This won't really draw people away from an Xbox One, PlayStation 4, or gaming PC. This is for those people who are already deep in Apple's overall ecosystem. They already use iTunes and Apple Music. They've already spent money and downloaded a number of other iOS apps. Here's a box that can access those apps, plus their favorite streaming videos services, and it can play these improved games to boot. I'm also seeing it as a killer karaoke machine.
It's still a solution in search of a problem in my opinion, but in Apple's case, I think it's a solution that will have some traction due to it coming from Apple. It'll look good to Apple's more affluent consumer base, especially with its price tag. The Apple TV's 32GB model will retail for $149, while the 64GB model is $199. That puts it way above the competition, seeing as the Nexus Player is a cool $69.99.
The microconsole still feels like a non-starter to me, but a Apple streaming box that can play a few games? That might work a bit better for consumers.