Apple Testing 4K Capable Fifth-Generation Apple TV For Possible Release This Year
Apple is currently testing a new, fifth-generation Apple TV capable of streaming Ultra HD 4K video, according to a report released on Thursday.
The new Apple TV is internally codenamed "J105" and is able to output content in more vivid colors, according to Bloomberg. The fifth-gen device may release as soon as this year, with Apple's recent hiring of former Amazon Fire TV unit chief Timothy D. Twerdhal said to indicate a renewed focus on the set-top box.
Twerdhal's arrival comes as the company tests a new, fifth-generation Apple TV that it may release as soon as this year. Internally codenamed "J105," the new box will be capable of streaming ultra-high-definition 4K and more vivid colors, according to people familiar with the plans.
Details on Apple's intentions for its set-top box have been scant in recent months, with the last rumor that it was readying a new model appearing as far back as December 2015. Today's new disclosure appears as part of an investigation into Apple's apparent inability to keep pace with rivals like Amazon and Roku in the TV streaming market. According to Bloomberg's sources, Apple engineers have been forced to compromise "time and again" on Steve Jobs' original vision of revolutionizing the living room.
Originally, the Apple TV was meant to replace the ungainly set-top boxes supplied by cable companies and allow owners to stream live television, but Apple's failure to secure deals with the major cable channels left Cupertino unable to push ahead with its TV plans. According to the report, that left the Apple TV team debating other options, such as including a game controller with the fourth-gen model to better compete with Microsoft's Xbox and the Sony PlayStation, but that ultimately fell through because of cost concerns.
Apple also reportedly passed on including a more expensive 4K-capable chip in the fourth-gen Apple TV because it would be forced to accept lower margins. This left the set-top box more akin to a "giant iPhone", consisting of a cluster of apps and an App Store.
"That's not what I signed up for," says one of the people, who requested anonymity to talk freely about internal company matters. "I signed up for revolutionary. We got evolutionary."
Apple has never revealed how many Apple TVs it has sold, although Apple CFO Luca Maestri recently admitted that sales had decreased year-over-year during the 2016 holiday period, while market research suggests the fourth-generation Apple TV has been losing market share to cheaper Amazon and Roku boxes since its launch in the fall of 2015.
Steve Jobs' ambitions in the TV space have become almost legendary since his passing, but little has been achieved by Apple to realize his vision, which originally included an Apple-branded television set. Jobs previewed the first Apple TV in 2006, when the device was only able to stream iTunes video from a Mac to a TV. When he stepped down from his position as Apple CEO on August 24, 2011 due to illness, he intended to work on an Apple television that would re-invent living room entertainment.
After Jobs' death, Apple tried to gain a stronger foothold in this regard, but the company failed to secure the cable channel deals that would allow it to create the full integrated television programming experience and TV set that Jobs envisioned, and since that time it has relied on the fourth-generation Apple TV, with App Store and Siri integration, as a makeweight solution.
Apple CEO Tim Cook has repeatedly asserted in the past that "the future of TV is apps", but such a vision is difficult to realize in the context of a fully unified user experience. Apple TV users still have to buy individual TV episodes via the iTunes Store, pay extra for services such as Hulu, and download apps linked to specific channels, after which they must log in with their existing cable subscriptions.
According to the Bloomberg report, by all accounts, Apple's efforts to position the Apple TV as a streaming and distribution platform for other content providers have failed. Whether or not a 4K-capable device can bring about a resurgence in its ambitions for the living room remains to be seen.
You can read the full Bloomberg report here.