I guess those excited about a software refresh in a week are gonna be *really* excited when new Apple TV hardware is unveiled next month.
— MG Siegler (@parislemon) September 11, 2013
So, in no particular order… “why update the Apple TV?”
- 4K video
I wouldn’t bet on this, at all, since there’s virtually no content available today, and probably won’t be much in the next 24-36 months. If 4K looks promising, they can rev again in the future. Further, Apple has historically *not* led in this category, and I’d be surprised to see them do it this time.
- Rich SDK
Yes, there are plenty of apps available for Apple TV today, but access is limited and granted in an ad-hoc fashion to selected content providers. Many folks assume one day they’ll open this up to a wider developer network -as in, all developers. I know very little about the programmability/guts of the Apple TV, but I have to assume the current one simply wasn’t designed to be uber-expandable. As a sub-point, I *could* see an argument for an extension of iOS here, but I’d hope it’d be a differentiated offering to relate to the different UI mechanisms.
- HDMI Passthrough
For the literal heaps of things Google TV has done wrong, HDMI passthrough was smart. Enabling the Apple TV to sit on Input 1 at all times enables no-input switching for any connected experience. But even better than that, it’s not a stretch to see a version of AirPlay with a, wait for it, transparent layer. What does that mean? Imagine every cool thing about Interactive TV you’ve ever heard or thought of, minus all the lame stuff, now have it actually work, powered by your iPhone/iPad. Awesome.
Many of us already believe the next generation of consoles is doomed, but what if the Apple TV came with an optional joystick and as much gaming horsepower as an iPad or Xbox 360, and stayed at the $99 price point? It’s the exact opposite strategy Microsoft is taking with their platform (gaming first, everything else second), but since about 1998 that’s pretty much a winning approach.
And that’s it – which is telling in its own way. There’s no other “basic” TV/streaming need to upgrade the current hardware, and Apple certainly isn’t going to put out a new version without a very specific reason. Perhaps I’m missing something (comment please!), but I am at a loss to come up with any other drivers for new hardware. Oh, and yes, I’m ruling out Siri, physical motion gestures, cameras, etc – while any could certainly come at some point, they aren’t going to exist without one of the above as well.
Which leaves me with the following: if you do not think the above reasons are compelling, and you can’t come up with a better one, I think you can pretty much write off a new piece of hardware. Further, I have strong convictions that the only truly viable option above is adding a Rich SDK/open developers kit, so if we don’t see that next week, I don’t think we see any new device show up either.