Apple TV Adjusts Picture, Stays on Channel
The new Apple TV the company revealed alongside its new iPad Wednesday was not the rumored iTV some fans were hoping for. However, in releasing a slightly brushed-up version of its set-top box, Apple could buy time for developing its next big product while slowing getting users hooked on its way of presenting television content.
03/09/12 10:28 AM PT
At the same time Apple announced its new iPad on Wednesday, the company also introduced the latest version of its TV set-top box and software. The new Apple TV model looks basically the same as the previous version -- a small black box that hooks up to a TV via HDMI -- but changes to the product include deeper integration with services like iCloud and iTunes Match, as well as improved resolution.
Apple TV users can now watch video with 1080p playback. They'll also see an updated user interface. Apple has now intertwined its other services more closely with the new Apple TV. Users can access their entire iCloud library to view on an Apple TV, or they could buy video via Apple TV and then watch on another device, such as an iPhone or iPad.
The new Apple TV is also more closely tied in to third-party services such as Netflix, NBA and MLB.tv. Instead of having to access and pay for those subscriptions from a separate billing account, Apple TV users can now do it directly from the device.
Apple kept the upgraded device at US$99, the same price as the previous version.
"The most significant improvement in the latest Apple TV device is its user interface," Andrew Ladbrook, senior analyst at Informa, told MacNewsWorld. "It is not a major step forward but it is a step in the right direction."
The improved tie-ins to the rest of Apple's ecosystem are also a significant part of the upgrade. The integration with iCloud can be a tool for businesses looking to put content from Apple devices such as iPads onto Apple TV-enabled screens for presentations.
Relative to Apple's other products, the Apple TV perhaps hasn't been an outstanding seller. But thanks to the strong branding and upgrades to the device, it has advantages in its market, according to Ladbrook.
"The most important advantage that Apple TV has is its link with the iPad and the iPhone via Airplay, which allows for not only home videos and photos to be easily streamed from the iPad to the TV but also video from selected apps," he told MacNewsWorld.
Still Waiting for Something Bigger
"In general, there was very little to stand out in the latest version of Apple TV. As a device it is only a slight improvement over its predecessor," said Ladbrook.
However, those slow and steady changes are what keeps it a strong competitor in its market, according Jia Wu, senior analyst at Strategy Analytics.
"Apple TV's solid improvement on hardware and software is more evolutionary than revolutionary," he told MacNewsWorld. "As they are able to keep the price at the $99 level, all the enhancement will just solidify their lead in the connected TV player market."
Even with the upgrades present in the most recent version of Apple TV, some Apple users still hope for an iTV -- the rumored Apple TV set.
Apple hasn't commented on rumors that anything is in the works. But if it is, said Wu, anxious users might have to wait a while.
"I think an Apple branded TV is on its way,"' said Wu. "But the announcement of the rehashed Apple TV is likely to reduce the probability of an iTV introduction this year, as the launch of iTV would kill the growth momentum of Apple TV generated from this upgrade."
That wait puts customers exactly where Apple wants them, according to Ladbrook. If Apple is truly working on a TV set, the drawn-out wait gives the company time to build a high-quality product. It also gives more customers time to become hooked on the company's ecosystem.
"It allows Apple to adjust users' expectations about how to interact with the TV and what device is important. It puts their iPad at the center, a device with a much shorter life cycle than the TV," he said.
Apple did not respond to our requests for comment.