Siri has her sights set on the lounge room, with a new-look Apple TV vying for the attention of both gamers and movie fans.
A slew of new Apple announcements is coming this week and all the signs point to a revamp of the tiny Apple TV set-top box. There was once talk of an actual Apple-branded television, but diving into the cut-throat television market alongside Sony, Samsung and LG would be foolish.
These renders, a collaboration between designers Martin Hajek (martinhajek.com) and Andrew Ambrosino (ajambrosino.com), show what a new Apple TV with a touchscreen controller and iOS 9 could look like.
There's little money in selling televisions, it's smarter to just sell a cheap set-top box acting as a gateway to the Apple ecosystem. Don't expect the new Apple TV to feature digital TV tuners or a DVD/Blu-ray player either, as neither would put money into Apple's coffers.
Instead the new Apple TV set-top box is likely to pack more grunt under the bonnet so it can run the new iOS 9 software update. With this should come limited access to the iTunes app store, making the Apple TV more versatile than ever. The software update would also pave the way for Apple's Siri personal assistant to come to the lounge room, letting you shout commands at your television. Alternatively you might use a microphone built into the remote control.
A new Apple TV remote could feature a touchscreen. Photo: martinhajek.com
Siri won't just be there so you can boss her around, she'll also help you plan your evening's entertainment by taking advantage of content discovery and cross-platform search. Ask her "what's new?" and Siri will scour all the streaming services at your disposal. Name a movie or TV show and she'll check whether it's on the iTunes store or available via a service like Netflix.
You'd think that Netflix Ultra HD support would be a no-brainer for the new Apple TV, and perhaps an HDMI 2.0a port to handle High Dynamic Range (HDR) video, but it might not be that simple. Adding Ultra HD would certainly help sell more boxes, but Apple may not be keen to give Netflix a shot in the arm when there's talk of Apple launching its own Pay TV-lite subscription video service in the next 12 months.
Until now the Apple TV has been very video-centric but the biggest change with a new model could be a gaming overhaul — making it easier to play iOS games on the big screen. A handful of games like Real Racing 3 already support dual-screen mode, turning an iGadget into a controller while sending the video to your television. Apple might expand this under iOS 9 and make it easier to develop TV-friendly games.
There's also talk of a revamped Apple TV remote control, with a touchscreen and gyroscope so it can act as a games controller. The remote could rely on Bluetooth but hopefully will retain infrared for controlling home entertainment gear. A new remote control would push up the price tag, so Apple might rely on iGadgets instead — you'd be hard-pressed to find an Apple TV owner who doesn't have at least one iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch in the house.
With iOS 9, Apple TV would get the benefit of more intelligent Siri search. Photo: ajambrosino.com
In the short-term a games-friendly Apple TV wouldn't present much of a threat to serious gaming consoles like the PS4 and Xbox One. Instead it would be targeted more at casual gamers — perhaps winning people across from consoles like Nintendo's Wii U.
Apple might also envision the new Apple TV as the heart of its HomeKit home automation ecosystem, which would make sense considering that the set-top box is an internet-enabled, always-on device. The Apple TV could act as the central gateway for devices like smart light bulbs, so you don't need to make a direct Bluetooth connection to every device you want to control — making HomeKit a lot more user-friendly.
Siri's ambitions extend far beyond the lounge room, with the new-look Apple TV perhaps making her the voice of the modern smart home.
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