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What You Need to Know About the New Apple TV

Apple recently announced a newly revamped Apple TV. As with anything Apple, the announcement came with much excitement and the promise to change our life forever. But is the new Apple TV really that groundbreaking? The answer is no …. and yes. As with many things in tech, sometimes the value of something is not evident until much later. We’ll get to that in a bit though. Let’s first take a quick look at the new features and see how they stack up:

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The new Apple TV [source]

The look of the device itself hasn’t changed all that much, which is not a bad thing. For the techies out there, Apple has replaced the old A5 chip with a 64-bit A8 processor. It is also about 10mm taller than the old device and has connections for HDMI and Ethernet.

The remote does look very different, now with a glass touch surface at the top of it. Under the hood, it has dual microphones for Siri and a built in accelerometer and gyroscope. These changes add a lot of new functionality, which we will discuss in a later section.

Tim Cook said it himself, “Our vision for TV is simple, and perhaps a little provocative: We believe the future of television is apps.” Apple will create an app store exclusively for Apple TV, similar to what they have done with the iPhone and iPad. The company also is creating a new development kit for its new platform, tvOS.

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Apple TV and its apps [source]

Apple has done well with creating an industry around apps (see iPhone & iPad), so this isn’t totally surprising. It is worth noting that Apple is not the first to commit to apps on the TV — Google tried it a few years ago and it officially died earlier this year. But since when is Apple intimidated by previous failed attempts at new technology (see iPad and tablet computers)? The company seems to understand that it is not necessarily best to release a product first, but rather it is best to release a product that actually works the way people want to use it.

But what about live TV? The local news? Presumably there will be apps to deal with that. Apple clearly wants to make sitting at home after a long day at work and channel surfing a thing of the past.

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The new Apple TV remote [source]

The touchpad on the remote changes the way you can navigate through everything on your TV, including browsing through movie titles and controlling video playback.

The new remote also turns the Apple TV device into a game console. The remote can be used as a motion controller to swing at baseballs or flying objects similar to the Wii. The touchpad on the remote also allows for navigation within the games, which Apple demoed at the event.

One of the more exciting features is integration with Siri into the Apple TV experience. You can now simply push a button on the remote and tell Siri what you want to watch instead of having to scroll through everything to find it. A cool feature integrated with this is a universal search, where the system will actually search through all your installed apps (such as Hulu, HBO, Netflix, etc) to find the relevant programming and display it for you in one place.

The jury is still out on how well Siri understands natural language and how functional it will be on the TV. Some people think Siri works well, but many others won’t use it because it never understands them. Voice technology still has a ways to go for people to really find useful, but what Apple is doing is definitely a step in the right direction.

The new Apple TV costs more than double the previous model — it starts at $149 instead of $69 for the 32GB model. Apple did not announce an exact release date, but the company did say it will be available sometime in October.

The new release of Apple TV does not really change the game … yet. We will see how many people actually use Siri, and yes, playing some games on your TV will indeed be fun. Once developers start creating some apps that really take advantage of the interaction between media and technology, as suggested here, then things will really get interesting. That is when the transformation will start to occur. That is when new interaction with the TV will come around, interaction that we never even considered today. This will take a few years, though, as all the new functionality becomes mainstream and people really understand how to use everything together.

So is the new Apple TV groundbreaking? Right now, no. But if Apple has its way, it very well will be.

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