Apple today debuted its long-awaited next-generation Apple TV set-top box, incorporating what the company calls a “new foundation for TV” consisting of more powerful hardware, a modernized operating system, a completely revamped user experience and a development framework and App Store for facilitating third-party apps. The new Apple TV will include a remote that includes a glass touch surface and Siri support for interacting with the TV user interface. Users can swipe to navigate through menus, or give a wide variety of Siri voice commands to search for and play content, look up information, and navigate the Apple TV. A new Universal Search feature allows users to find content across multiple sources — currently iTunes, Hulu, Netflix, HBO, and Showtime — as well as searching with Siri for content by type (“action films”), actor, or even guest star.
When viewing content, users can also click and swipe to scrub through a show with thumbnails preview images shown on the scrubber bar, or use Siri commands such as “skip ahead 7 minutes” to go forward, or “what did she say?” to skip back 15 seconds and temporarily turn on captions.
Contextual information can also be looked up when watching a movie or TV show by issuing Siri commands such as “Who stars in this?” to see cast information, or even non-contextual information such as sports scores or weather. A notification overlay appears to provide information without taking the user out of the current video, and users can either dismiss or swipe up to pause playback and show more detail.
The new Apple TV is underpinned by “tvOS” — a new version of iOS developed specifically for the set-top box environment, and a development framework that’s based on the same foundations as iOS development, allowing developers to easily port their iOS apps to the Apple TV. Apple has also added support for Apple Music in the new Apple TV, including Beats One Radio, iCloud Music Library, and “For You” recommendations, and an App Store with premier apps that will include Netflix, HBO, Hulu, Galaxy on Fire, Rayman Adventures, and even console-exclusive games such as Disney’s new Star Wars game and Activision’s new Guitar Hero. Many of the existing “built-in” apps from current Apple TV models, such as MLB and NHL Game Center, also appear to be moving to the App Store and getting significantly more advanced capabilities.
The new Apple TV incorporates a 64-bit A8 chip, Bluetooth 4.0 and 802.11ac Wi-Fi. The new remote will pair with the Apple TV using Bluetooth so it can work without line-of-sight, and the unit now incorporates volume control and HDMI-CEC capabilities to control other attached equipment, such as allowing you to power your TV or stereo receiver on or off from the Apple TV remote. The remote uses a rechargeable battery with three months of battery life per charge and a Lightning connector for recharging. IR capabilities on the set-top box will presumably still allow use with third-party remotes as well. The new Apple TV is expected to be available in October in more than 80 countries and will be priced at $149 and $199 for 32GB and 64GB versions, respectively.