How Apple will make you really, really want an Apple TV

The future of television is high-performance apps

Apple, Apple TV, television, 4K, VR, AR, iTunes
Credit: Apple

The Apple TV is a quite powerful machine. It runs a dual-core, 64-bit A8 processor, which gives it plenty of oomph for apps, games, TV shows, music, and movies. And it’s not good enough.

You want more

When it comes to television you want more.

You want faster and more detailed games. You want better graphics and animation. You want speedier apps. You want more powerful and more integrated personalization and predictive capabilities.

Apple really wants to give this to you. It is working pretty hard to lay the ground for the next edition of its front room computer. So, what kind of improvements can you expect, and how will Apple convince you to purchase an Apple TV (5)?

More movies

Apple is negotiating with big Hollywood movie studios to create a premium iTunes Movie Rental service from which you will be able to rent movies just two weeks after they appear in movie theaters.

The company is speaking with 21st Century Fox, Warner Bros, and Universal Pictures to secure deals to enable this service.

Movie studios are concerned this may impact cinema revenues, so they are demanding (and will likely get) high prices. Bloomberg claims movies may cost up to $50 for 24-hours access – that’s not an unreasonable amount, given how much we spend watching movies in movie theaters.

All about you

Available in the US, Single Sign-On, and the new TV app are designed to help you get to the shows you want to watch with as little friction as possible. 

The first feature (enabled this week) is a handy convenience that lets you access all the premium channels using the relevant apps that you are entitled to receive under your cable TV deal. You just enter these details once to access all the channels.

The Live TV app pulls in content from all the existing TV apps you have installed on your Apple TV, iPhone or iPad and lets you access it all in one place. This snazzy program guide lets you get to live content (particularly sports), on demand shows and more, though Amazon Video and Netflix aren’t yet part of this system. 

Hopefully, the latter omission will change since Apple reduced its costs for video services from 30 percent to 15 percent. (Apple has traditionally taken a 30 percent cut from all iTunes commerce).

Run, baby, run

Super Mario Run is the first of many games Nintendo plans to make available on iOS. You’ll be able to install it on your iPhone and iPad from December 15, but I don’t think the plan stops there.

Once you have the game running on an iOS mobile device, it’s only a matter of scale to bring it to Apple TV, assuming it has the processing power. Nintendo is putting its corporate weight behind the move to embrace iOS. Why not go all the way?

Perhaps one thing that might enable cutting edge games on the platform might be…

Speed demons

Apple’s iPhone 7 devices run 64-bit A10 Fusion chips. These quad-core chips boast two high-performance cores and two energy-efficient cores.

Geekbench tests suggest iPhone 7 scores better on both single- and multi-core than most MacBook Airs; almost as well as a 2013 MacBook Pro and even beats the 12-core Mac Pro in single thread performance.

How much more performance will we be able to squeeze from the A11 processors the company is likely to place inside its products starting next year?

I’ll stick my neck out and suggest Apple will put an A11 or A10 chip inside a future Apple TV. When it does, you’ll have a dedicated TV box that’s at least as powerful as a current edition Mac Pro. What kind of video, games and other improvements might such a system support?

Immersive experiences

We know Apple is working on AR solutions because the company keeps telling us so. We also know it continues to build relationships with sports and movie brands, and that the only things preventing 4K support on Apple TV are a lack of true standardization, a lack of 4K content and broadband speed limitations.

These challenges are fading, setting the scene for future 4K support in Apple TV.

Imagine watching the latest movies in 4K just two weeks after they appear on the huge screen in your den.

Then there’s that VR/AR thing.

Right now, HTC Vive, Oculus and the other VR systems all need fast computers to pump media into those still far too heavy VR/AR goggles.

Might a future Apple TV running an A11 chip and Bluetooth 5 support multi-player VR and AR experiences through headsets? This has to be something the company is researching deep in its deepest R&D lab.

Beyond entertainment, think about how such AR experiences might transform unified communications and business meetings, or even just a chat with your mom.

Broadcasters know VR and AR are coming. Many, including Sky, are commissioning high-end VR content.

Meanwhile, industry insiders including NextVR executive chairman Brad Allen are saying that when Apple launches products, it will be a "tipping point" for the industry. "There are smoke signals coming out of Cupertino," Calif., where Apple is based, he said, predicting music and sports will be key to its go to market strategy.

What kind of VR and AR experiences could make watching sports television on Apple TV more interesting?

The future of television is chips

If the future of TV is apps then this future will be even more transformed as those apps acquire faster chips.

From high-res music downloads to graphics intensive gaming experiences to 4K movie services and VR football games, all these things and more are within Apple’s grasp.

This is how the company will convince you to purchase an Apple TV 5. And, who knows, perhaps this will be how it convinces you to purchase televisions with Apple TV services baked inside, or reaches deals to provide you with a free box with content subscriptions, such as the recently revealed AT&T Direct TV deal, which (sadly) has not been christened AT&TV.

And don’t even get me started on Siri, AI, movie subscription services or original content provision...

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