Ok, so Apple (finally) uncovered their awaited fourth generation Apple TV. The Hardware in this new Apple TV is no big deal, really. Sure, it now is a more powerful processer, better graphics performance, better wifi connectivity support and so on. But at the end of the day, this is more of Apple catching up with the competition, not getting ahead.
And there is still no dedicated audio output, something coupled with smartphone access/remote control of apps such as Apple Music, Spotify etc, would have made it perfect in the home entertainment setup as a stand-alone music player. Now you will have to fire up your tv to simply listen to music.
On the other hand they do have given themselves a head start and gives their competitors a hefty challenge after all. With the introduction of true apps and access to their ecosystem for developers. This opens up for more areas of use and could add substantially more value for the money compared to a “dumb” media player. Certainly Google has their equivalent app store so in that regard Apple has no head start towards the Android market. However, as seen in the past Apple have had a ability to attract attention and oftentimes provide a solid experience. So I think it will be interesting to say where this takes the Apple TV experience in the future.
And we have seen a selection of new usage areas. Gaming for example. However Apple TV will not be the replacement for a dedicated gaming console, but it could absolutely provide some fun experiences maybe in the area of social gaming and kids entertainment.
What is then considerably more interesting is their new remote (or input control device). In contrast to a typical remote it has touchpad support. And voice control (Siri). And motion sense. This is something that is substantially harder to copy for their competitors. With the addition of apps and this multifunctional input device, which could be used as a traditional remote, a mouse, a Wiimote-style gaming controller and on top of that it is voice controlled, bringing new interesting possibilities to the table. Have you ever tried to browse the web using a TV and a traditional remote? Now imagine using Safari and a motion sensitive and voice controlled touchpad mouse, that might a totally different story.
So it is about Apple offering a sensible ecosystem of apps that eliminate the need for TVs to be smart. And frankly, those “smart” TVs I have used didn’t actually felt that smart. Those apps for smart TVs have been few, poorly implemented and have slow update pace. Anyway, I think it will be a much more smooth and pleasant experience on the Apple TV given the feeling of Apple iOS apps and the GUI we have been using for some time now. In addition it has a more convenient and intuitive way to control the user interface (where an IR remote for HTPC is quite clumsy to use and similarly is the television remote control not a smooth experience beyond switching the channels and adjusting the volume).
At this stage, Apple TV is on par with the competition as a media player. Looking ahead, this device has great potential to improve our living room and media experiences and possibly disrupt how and what we do with our TV as a base.