Apple Brings tvOS to Apple TV

Apple believes the future of television is apps. To make good on that forecast, it's now introducing tvOS, the operating system for your television set. Launched in beta in conjunction with a new Apple TV box and remote, tvOS is Apple's newest weapon in the living room entertainment wars.

At Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL)'s much-anticipated product event Wednesday, the company unveiled the latest Apple TV at a cost of $149 for the 32GB version and $199 for the 64GB version. Those are steep price points compared to a Roku box or Chromecast streaming stick, but the Apple TV product also comes with significant feature upgrades.

Among them are a remote that responds to swipe and touch, a sophisticated voice interface courtesy of Siri, unified search across iTunes, Netflix, Hulu, HBO and Showtime, and widgets that offer up-to-the minute information on topics like weather and sports scores.

Ironically, none of the features in the new device are all that revolutionary. Fan TV introduced a touch-controlled remote back in 2013 before being acquired by Rovi Corp. in 2014. Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) has been hyping its voice interface and voice remote since the spring. TiVo Inc. (Nasdaq: TIVO) and Google Fiber Inc. both offer unified search. And TV widgets have been around (and largely ignored) for at least eight years. (See also 5 Signs OTT's Time Has Come.)

However, Apple has pulled all of those pieces together and bundled them in a single package. And far more importantly, it has paired these TV features with an Apple operating system.

Want to know more about the impact of web services on the pay-TV sector? Check out our dedicated OTT services content channel here on Light Reading.

While Apple is still struggling to make the necessary content deals for its own TV service, it does have a killer advantage in the living room with the iOS app ecosystem. Specifically, Apple has 11 million developers in its mobile community, and it's ready to bring them to the big screen with tvOS.

To demonstrate the possibilities of tvOS, Apple made the operating system available to select developers ahead of today's beta launch. Game developer Hipster Whale created a multi-player version of its hit game Crossy Road that can be played with the Apple TV remote. Daily deal company Gilt developed an interactive shopping app. MLB.com created an app that blends live sports viewing with synchronized stats display. Netflix Inc. (Nasdaq: NFLX), Home Box Office Inc. (HBO) and Hulu LLC all created new user interfaces specifically for tvOS.

The Apple TV is what consumers will buy when it becomes available in late October. However, tvOS is what the company hopes will get viewers hooked on Apple in the living room for years to come.

— Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Cable/Video, Light Reading

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Mitch Wagner 9/14/2015 | 4:06:14 PM
Re: Apps It occurred to me over the weekend that I was being somewhat clueless on that Amazon Prime point. 

If Apple follows the same model for the TV app store as for the iPhone and iPad, then Amazon Prime will be on the Apple TV if Amazon wants to put it there. No special deal with Apple required.

And why WOULDN'T Amazon want to put it there?

My gut feeling is that lack of support for Amazon Prime would significantly inhibit Apple TV adoption. But I don't have any research or other facts to back that up. 
mhhf1ve 9/10/2015 | 6:37:24 PM
Re: Apps It's interesting that iOS and tvOS are different in some way.. so that it's not assured that all iOS apps will be available on tvOS. I know Apple handles apps for iPhones and iPads differently in the App store -- making sure that you know that you're trying to run an iPad app on an iPhone or vice versa (and allowing it or disallowing it). But adding yet another branch of iOS incompatibility might get a bit confusing, depending on how Apple handles it.

It's also uncertain how the app store will handle apps that take advantage of "3D touch" versus the apps that don't..... I assume Apple will make sure that only "3D touch"-enabled apps will be allowed on iPad Pros and iPhone 6S(+)'s only, but it's up to developers to make multiple versions of their apps now that have these exclusive features -- and that don't (yet?) have any analog on other platforms (eg. Android), either.
Mitch Wagner 9/10/2015 | 5:56:30 PM
Re: Apps That App Store will be key. It will need desirable apps. 
mhhf1ve 9/10/2015 | 3:20:57 PM
Re: Pricing & Questions "Will Amazon give us a Prime streaming app on yet another competing platform? I sure hope so."

Amazon already has an iOS app for its videos, so I assume Apple TV will be able to run that app? I suppose it could be blocked if the user interface isn't up to snuff with Apple's aesthetics, but I'm sure there should be a way to get Amazon videos to play on an Apple TV.

I'm not so sure that Amazon videos will be included in Apple Siri's "Universal Search"...? 
mhhf1ve 9/10/2015 | 3:18:19 PM
Re: Apps "What can you do with your Apple TV that you can't do with a Roku?" Have access to the Apple App Store?
mhhf1ve 9/10/2015 | 3:13:00 PM
Re: Apps Is Amazon Prime video really missing from the new Apple TV? That would be weird b/c it exists on other iOS devices already. Amazon prime videos can be watched on iPads/iPods/iPhones... so if Apple TV runs a version of iOS, it should be able to run an Amazon app, too, right? 

It looks like people have been able to hack a way to get Amazon videos to play on the old Apple TV... so it seems like it'd be quite a step backwards for Apple to not include Amazon videos in the new Apple TV?

Mitch Wagner 9/10/2015 | 2:30:20 PM

With the new upgrade, Appel TV is FINALLY competitive with Roku and other vendors' offerings.

Or nearly competitive. Still missing: Amazon Prime, unless that's on its way and I haven't heard about it. 

But whether Apple TV can exceed the competition will depend on app availability. What can you do with your Apple TV that you can't do with a Roku?

DaveZNF 9/10/2015 | 1:08:25 PM
Pricing & Questions It seems like a compelling upgrade, potentially exceeding Roku and Fire TV voice control with something way more versatile than just search. And the UI looks both beautiful and functional. Yet I'm having a hard time understanding what makes this 50% better than the full $100 MSRP Fire TV or Roku 3? Especially without the 4k the others are supposedly reading this fall. I assume they'll have no problem finding takers when it goes on sale, so it'll be a nice premium for Apple. Also, should the pricing stick long term, they'll have no problem sliding 4k into one of these two existing slots without missing a beat. 

Additional questions...

1) Is universal search invite only? As in: I assume random app developers won't be able to make themselves available to Siri, beyond launch, without a relationship with Apple.

2) Will Amazon give us a Prime streaming app on yet another competing platform? I sure hope so.

Is the Silbey household picking one up? I don't want one at the moment, but suspect I'll convince myself I need to open my wallet sometime next month. 
msilbey 9/9/2015 | 8:56:36 PM
Re: What controllers can be used with Apple TV? Yes, it's via Bluetooth. No need for pointing directly at the box.
mhhf1ve 9/9/2015 | 7:53:21 PM
Fire TV needs to step up now, too. Fire TV seems like it needs to get a few more fancy features now. I wonder how long multiplayer Crossy Road will remain exclusive on Apple TV? (OR when a Crossy Road multiplayer clone will appear on Android devices?)

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