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Hold the iPhone - Apple TV May Get Update as Well

By Peter Suciu MacNewsWorld ECT News Network
Sep 6, 2013 5:00 AM PT

Sept. 10 has already been the focus of frenzied attention among those anticipating the next iPhone, but in the last few days another rumor has popped up as well. Specifically, Apple might also use its widely hyped event to announce an update to its Apple TV set-top box product, the rumors suggest.

Hold the iPhone - Apple TV May Get Update as Well

It all started when Apple received a shipment called "Set Top Box with Communication Function" last month from BYD Precision Manufacture in Shenzhen, China. That was actually the second such shipment it received in August, global trade intelligence platform Panjiva pointed out on Tuesday. Also received last month was a shipment labeled simply, "Set Top Boxes."

"So what are these set top boxes?" wrote Panjiva blogger Katelyn Holbrook in a post entitled, "It's Not an iPhone."

Possibilities, Holbrook suggested, include "A) Apple's long rumored TV-focused product; B) A new version of the old school Apple TV; C) Something that's not particularly interesting, but that has an interesting description to throw us all off."

'It Has Been a While'

Of course, "there isn't really much to go on," Colin Dixon, founder and principal analyst at nScreenMedia, told MacNewsWorld.

"It has been a while since this device has been refreshed, so it would be possible," Dixon added, "but I would be stunned if this was actually heralding the arrival of a new Apple TV product."

Apple did not respond to our request for further details.

'This Is Apple's Hobby'

It has actually been 540 days or so since the latest refresh to the Apple TV product line. This has put the rumor mill into high gear, with a number of suggestions as to what Apple might reveal -- if anything.

One thing it likely won't be is a flat-screen TV -- "at least not this year," video analyst Greg Scoblete of Digital Trends Consulting told MacNewsWorld.

More likely, it is "an update to the existing box," he suggested. "At a minimum, the new box is likely to have a faster chip for a more responsive user interface. Apple may also rework the interface itself, as they've added several major content partners of late, including Disney, ESPN, Vevo, etc.

"This is Apple's 'hobby,'" Scoblete added, "so I'm not sure if they're poised to do something very radical with it just yet -- if they are, they've done a better job of keeping it from the leakers, unlike the forthcoming iPhones."

'An Economy of Games and Apps'

If Apple does actually roll out a refresh to Apple TV, "they'd have to boost processing power and add the Apple Store to it," opined nScreenMedia's Dixon. "That could be one of the things we can expect, as it could allow purchases from the armchair in front of the TV."

That, in turn, would create "an economy of games and apps for TV, which hasn't happened from the Apple ecosystem," Dixon noted. "Apple could be looking to a game service such as OnLive, especially as Comcast had suggested they might offer a professional gaming service -- Apple might follow suit."

This could mean that Apple would need to consider a gyroscopic remote and possibly look at NFC options between its iOS devices and the Apple TV product.

"With NFC to connect to the phone and NFC in the box, then you could literally touch the phone to the box -- that could be really simple but convenient for consumers," Dixon suggested.

The Chromecast Factor

Given the success of Google's Chromecast device, meanwhile, it's possible Apple may strike out in a different direction altogether.

"We're at the point where Apple might look to copy Google," said Dixon. "The bar has been set quite high, and Apple TV is falling behind."

The Chromecast has "completely blindsided Apple and Roku, and really anything less than a stick that plugs into the back of a TV from Apple is going to be seen as underwhelming," he predicted.

Meanwhile, Netflix has gotten into the content-creation business and Google and Amazon are both looking at TV services -- could Apple be considering a full TV service itself?

"We'd have expected to hear rumors coming from Hollywood," said Dixon. "We haven't heard those, so I'd be surprised if they announced anything like that."

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