When Apple released the latest version of its set-top AppleTV box, much hype was focused on the device’s ability to run third-party apps. This development was a departure from the closed-off nature of previous iterations of the Apple TV. The addition of third-party app support meant that Apple TV could now be used as more than just a media-consumption box. It could also be used to play games. Many game developers have taken advantage of the opportunity and ported existing games to the platform. Of course, the diminutive Apple TV doesn’t have the internal horsepower of a major modern gaming console like Xbox One or Playstation 4. And that lack of muscle may cause the device some issues in the long run, as game developers focus on those other platforms for their big titles.
That was exactly the case when Disney dropped support for its popular Disney Infinity title from Apple TV. Disney Infinity is an “open-world” style game that allows users to unlock playable characters by purchasing real-world figurines that come with in-game unlock codes. Disney Infinity has been around for a few years and its current iteration (Disney Infinity 3.0) is compatible with Playstation 3, 4 and PSVita, Xbox One and Xbox 360, Nintendo WiiU, Windows-based PC’s, and Steam.
No word has come from Disney as to whether or not Infinity may return to Apple TV. But losing a title like this may cause Apple to reconsider the role of Apple TV as a media consumption device, and give it enough power to run more complex apps like these types of games.
Apple’s set-top box, the Apple TV, has always been a bit of a curiosity. The so-called “hobby” device has been around for years. Originally, the Apple TV was envisioned as a home theater hub, shipping with built-in apps for media streaming as well as an internal hard drive for local file storage. But Apple stripped the device down in later iterations, removing the hard drive and slimming the Apple TV down to the familiar hockey-puck shape we see today. Speculation has run rampant over the last year that the Apple TV would see a major update, and it looks like Apple will be delivering the refreshed device next month.
Highlights of the new Apple TV:
It’ll run iOS 9 on an iOS Core
New remote control
The items on this list that are most interesting are the switch from the current Apple TV OS to iOS and the inclusion of the App Store. Independent media producers have been clambering for a long time for Apple to truly open up the Apple TV to third-party developers. Current Apple TVs host a limited number of apps, all of which are curated by Apple. The new Apple TV will truly be open to anyone who wants to get onto the platform. And now that the device will rely on iOS hardware and software to operate, it’ll be even easier for developers to bring things like games to the Apple TV.
While these are great developments, it looks like the new Apple TV won’t be shipping with quite everything consumers have been hoping for. One of the biggest rumors that’s been swirling around the Apple TV is Apple’s supposed Internet TV service that would truly unbundle cable TV once and for all. Apple is allegedly still negotiating with content providers for this new TV service. Regardless, the new Apple TV looks like an exciting revamp of a product line that looked like it had almost been abandoned not too long ago.
Digital video recorders (DVRs) are commonplace but usually they’re integrated with a cable decoder. Tablo’s offering records OTA (over the air) HD broadcasts that are transmitted from local TV stations, free of charge. Still not excited? The Tablo can stream both live and record programs to any connected device including Android and Apple devices, and set-top boxes like the Roku or AppleTV. Now that’s cool.
The Tablo contains two tuners (with a four tuner option), so can record two broadcasts at once. There’s no built-in storage but there are 2 USB ports for external HDD units to provide whatever space is needed. It’s perfect for cord-cutters. I’d love to see this come to the UK too.
The Tablo is on pre-order for US$219 and will be available in February 2014.
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This morning, Hulu Plus updated their website to include Chromecast support. With an update of the App, you can now watch your hulu subscription on the big screen.
Chromecast is Google’s answer to over the top television. For $35, you can plug into your HDMI outlet and use your phone as the remote. With the introduction, you could only send Netflix movies, Google Play content or Youtube videos to the big screen. With the addition of Hulu plus, the Chromecast is starting to feel more useful.
Chromecast has a long way to go from say Roku – with over 750 channels to their arsenal. On the way are apps from Vimeo, Vevo, Twitch.tv and more. Also coming up is extended support for Netflix with iOS apps.
My Assessment of Chromecast
It does make things easier since I don’t have to look for a remote to call up a show. I did notice the quality – at 1080p, Chromecast projects darker on the TV screen. Roku and Apple TV are brighter and more vibrant.
Also, if you are using your phone for something else (like talking on the phone), switching to remote mode is tougher. Good thing others can control the screen with their smartphones…
According to a new report from Parks Associates, Roku has taken the lead as the most popular streaming video device in the US. Further, Parks Associates also showed the number of U.S. broadband households with streaming media device has doubled since 2011.
The group put out a report called Connected TV: Trends and Innovation (report for purchase). In this report, they found that 37% of households with a streaming media device use Roku – as opposed to 24% that use Apple TV.
Parks Associates expect the number of connected TV devices to reach 330 million by 2017. With newer, easier to use devices like ChromeCast entering into the market – along with Apple’s rumored upcoming updated Apple TV on September 10th, this number could grow a lot faster. Adding in 4K or Ulta-TV devices with simple app support that get people introduced to streaming media could spark the market even more.
“Roku customers are passionate about streaming, and we are delighted that independent research shows that we are the most popular streaming platform measured by usage on a U.S. household basis,” said Anthony Wood, Founder and CEO, Roku.
Roku’s newest version – the Roku 3 – is a media streaming device and small game console with programs like Angry Birds, Galaga and Pac Man. You can use the remote with Bluetooth headphones for privacy viewing or pull out your iOS or Android device to control the set top box.
Today Apple updated the Apple TV and added several new channels to the line up including HBO Go, Crunchyroll, Qello, Watch ESPN and Sky News . With both HBO Go and Watch ESPN you must have an account with an authorized cable or satellite provider. Plus you also have to have a subscription to HBO for HBO Go to work. Also when you set up the services, some ask for your id and password and others like Watch ESPN and HBO Go have you input a code into a web site. It would be nice if you could do everything on the Apple TV.
Clearly this is not for the cord cutters, however hopefully it is a step down that road. I do see this as the next step in the development of the Apple TV. People talk constantly about Apple producing a TV I always thought this was bunk, it made no sense to me. The problem has never been the physical TV, the problem has been the content and how it is presented. Unfortunately, neither Apple or any other tech company has control of the content. Those who do the control the content, like cable and satellite providers along with the content creators and the traditional TV corporations all have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo. Hopefully overtime Apple and other companies like Roku, Microsoft, Amazon, Netflix and Google will be able to break through this stranglehold and we will be able to easily get the content how, where and when we want it. The current Apple TV or an updated version of it would be a good platform to handle this without Apple getting into the actual business of building TVs
Sometime this week, if not today there has been a rumor published about the imaginary TV that Apple is building. Most of these reports are assuming the new TV by Apple is a done deal and it is just a matter of time. From the time these rumors started the question that has run through my brain has been why?
I am really not looking for a TV made by Apple. I have no doubt that Apple has the technical know how to make an awesome TV, including retina display and Siri integration. That is not where the problem lies, the problem lies as always with content. Apple somehow has to convince the various content providers to allow their content to be used. Something that Google has been unable to do with the Google TV. Let say they get the content providers to agree to an arrangement, that is just the first problem. Then they have to get the content to the consumer through cable companies like Comcast, which has already shown that they will favor those who have an agreement with them over independent content. Third, it will have to convince consumers that purchasing a new HD panel is worth it. A panel which will probably be over 1,000 dollars if Apple’s history is any indicator.
Instead of creating a whole new TV, I wish Apple would improve the Apple TV they already have. They need to open it up to more third-party video platforms like Plex or XMBC. That way I could watch content not only from providers such as PBS or Aljazerra or HBO Go, but also live streaming from Ustream, Justin TV or YouTube to name a few. Second open up the platform to games and allow third-party vendors to create wireless controllers. Yes, I know a lot of this can be accomplished by jail breaking the Apple TV, but I shouldn’t have to do that. Plus if you do jail break the Apple TV, than you are always in this constant game with Apple. They do an update and you have to wait for the new jailbreak to come out, they do another update and it’s another jailbreak and on and on.
I know I am probably wrong the current Apple TV will continue to remain what it has always been for Apple just a hobby and this fall just in time for the holiday season, there will be an Apple TV monitor for sale in the Apple Store. The Apple pundits will write about it like it is the next coming. I and all the other Mac fans will be drooling over it, wishing we could afford it. Meanwhile the hobby which could be so much more will continue to be ignored, I just wish it wasn’t so.