Apple TV may have finally shaken off its "hobby" status today at the company's press event. Tim Cook told the crowd that "the future of TV is apps" before taking the lid off the next generation of Apple TV.
Gone is the Apple TV software of old: the iOS-based tvOS has taken its place. Siri is the centerpiece of this Apple TV, and the digital assistant has a lot of tricks up her sleeve. Apple's demo included some serious filtering and context awareness. The company's demo started with a query of "show some action movies," before filtering the results by asking for "the James Bond ones." Siri can go deeper, though: asking for "just the ones with Sean Connery" delivered exactly the results one would expect.
The voice search results had another interesting (and potentially huge) feature: instead of returning just iTunes listings for a movie or TV show, Apple TV aggregates several different services including Netflix, Hulu, HBO and Showtime. Android TV doesn't do that.
The Apple TV hardware is a big step up over the current-generation set-top box's single-core A5 derivative, too. Apple's 64-bit A8 SoC powers the new box, which looks like a slightly taller version of the existing black rectangle. The bigger news is a new remote: this version has a glass-covered touch surface, a microphone for Siri, and motion sensors onboard. Rather than the RF remote included with the current Apple TV, Apple has opted for Bluetooth 4.0 connectivity on the new remote, which has a purported 3-month battery life and a Lightning port for charging. The Apple TV and remote can even turn on TVs and receivers and switch inputs with CEC.
If the future of TV is indeed apps, Apple TV's future seems secure. The company says developers will be able to download tools for tvOS development today and get their hands on the latest Apple TV hardware before everyone else. To start with, Apple has a lineup of TV-centric apps from the biggest streaming services that will be available at launch.
Games are a big focus for the next Apple TV, too. A representative from studio Hipster Whale demonstrated Crossy Road with the Apple TV remote, while Harmonix showed off its platform-exclusive Beat Sports, a hybrid rhythm-sports title. These games support simultaneous multi-player, letting additional users connect to the Apple TV with an iPhone or iPad.
The revamped Apple TV will be available in late October at $149 for the 32GB model or $199 for a 64GB version. The existing Apple TV will soldier on at its current price of $69.
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