Apple is planning to release a new Apple TV sometime this year which will include ultra-high-definition 4K support, Bloomberg reports. According to people familiar with the plans, the Apple TV is internally codenamed “J105” and will also feature more vivid colors, but little else is known about the new device. Sources suspect that it may not include any other significant new features beyond the processor upgrade necessary to support the higher 4K resolution.
The report also suggests that Apple’s recent hire of former Amazon Fire TV head Timothy Twerdhal signals a renewed interest on Apple’s part toward the set-top box, although it’s still unclear exactly what Apple’s ultimate plans for the device may be. The addition of 4K capabilities are expected to boost sales, but according to sources, the length of time it’s taken to gain features like 4K support are yet another example of Apple engineers being forced to compromise on the design of the hardware to preserve Apple’s profit margins without pricing the product out of the market. The report reveals that the Apple TV team had previously pushed for plans to include a gaming controller with the fourth-generation Apple TV model, as well as providing an “always-on” Siri feature that would allow users to issue voice commands without having to talk to the remote control.
Apple also had plans to replace a user’s cable box with the fourth-generation Apple TV, with early prototypes even including connectors for a cable TV coaxial port, as Apple planned to control the interface, collect fees from viewers, and engage in a revenue-sharing model with cable and media companies. The new TV app which debuted last fall was also originally slated to be part of this experience — a main interface for accessing live shows and sports — however, it got scaled down into being merely a front-end interface for iTunes and other on-demand streaming services, with little to none of the customization that some of the Apple TV engineering team wanted to implement. Most of these plans failed, the report notes, due to a failure of Apple and the media companies to come to terms on cost and bundling of content. Apple was also at odds in its negotiating tactics, with media companies accusing Apple of arrogance and Apple accusing the media companies of inflexibility. The report suggests that the arrival of Twerdhal on the scene will allow the former Apple TV product marketing chief, Pete Distad, who formerly worked as Senior VP of content distribution at Hulu, to focus his time on working out content deals with media companies in hopes of at least reviving the “skinny bundle” web service that Apple has been working on for the past two years.