Apple announced today the release of a new version of the Apple TV, a device that hasn't been upgraded in more than three years and that Apple used to refer to as a "hobby." While the previous Apple TV and competitors like the Roku were really television accessories that contain computer chips, the upgraded Apple TV is much more a real computer that plugs into your television and happens to be optimized to be controlled (via Bluetooth remote or Siri) from couch-distance away rather than used up close the way a desktop computer would be.
The new product is no hobby. It features:
- An upgraded chip that's a version of the same chip that powers the iPhone
- An operating system based on iOS and an SDK for developers, so third parties can write Apple TV apps
- A new app store
- A larger, more capable Bluetooth-enabled remote control that's also usable as a game controller
- Siri to allow for voice control
A much more robust platform
The quasi-open platform of the app store means the ultimate capabilities of the Apple TV won't be limited by Apple's ability to make deals or to imagine what people might want to do. Instead, software companies large and small around the world think of ways to make the hardware useful and relevant to people.
No Apple TV service (yet)
What Apple didn't announce is the creation of a new Netflix-competing streaming service that will define the future of television for the post-cable universe. Accomplishing something like that would require deals with content companies, and Apple hasn't been able to come to terms with them.