"The future of TV is apps."
That was the message delivered today by Apple CEO Tim Cook, in a (very) long-awaited announcement regarding Apple TV. The device, a brand new piece of hardware that replaces a many-years-old version, is centered around apps — and a major integration with Siri, aka voice control.
After Cook explained that "viewing TV through an app" can be a better experience, a series of demos was shown that walked those in attendance through the new Apple TV's many features. Put simply: Apple TV turns your television into a new iOS device.
Apple's "new foundation for TV" is based around a brand new operating system called "tvOS," which runs on the same fundamental code as iOS (which will make it nice and easy for developers to port their apps to a TV format), and can be developed for using Xcode.
Two big new revolutions were a brand new remote control device and Siri integration. The remote is a small black device with a touch-sensitive glass area at its top, where your thumb typically lands. Apple's goal seemed to be to simulate what it would be like to touch your TV screen the same way you touch your iPhone — but from the couch. It also has buttons for menu/home, volume, play/pause and AirPlay, as well as a microphone button for speaking to Siri. It charges via a Lightning connector, and Apple claims it will run for three months on a single charge.
As for Siri, she's learned some new tricks for Apple TV. Sure, you can ask her to pull up a certain movie by name, but what if you don't remember the name? What if you're not even sure what you want to watch? Contextual searching has come to Siri with tvOS, with all kinds of commands recognizable in natural speech. You can ask her to simply "show me something new," or you can search by cast member, director, date or age rating. Siri can also be used to advance video ahead or backwards.
Included in the overhauled Apple TV interface are five main sections: Movies, TV Shows, App Store, Photos and Music. Photos works much like the Photo app on your Mac or iOS device, while Music brings the full Apple Music/iTunes experience to your television. Movie posters and music covers wobble with a neat 3D effect when you select them with the remote.
The App Store functions independently, meaning you don't need to first download anything to your Mac or PC. Apps download directly to the Apple TV hardware, and developers can enable them for universal purchases. That means that if a version of an app exists for Apple TV, iPad and iPhone, you can download it and pay for it once and get all three versions.
Apps and games work exactly as you'd expect, via the touchscreen remote. Games will even pick up where you left off if you played on one device and later pick it back up. While a multiplayer game was demoed onstage, no announcement was made regarding how much a second remote will cost.
Another nifty feature was a series of video screensavers, which are high-resolution, slow-moving videos of nature or cities. Apple TV will automatically display screensavers with day or night imagery based on the current time of day.
The new Apple TV runs on a 64-bit A8 chip, and the remote pairs with it via Bluetooth. Power, HDMI and Ethernet connections are located on the back. Never once was the phrase "4K resolution" mentioned, so we're assuming that's not supported. Apple's anticipated cable-cutting service was not mentioned either.
tvOS is available to developers today, with the operating system expected to arrive in late October. Late October is also when consumers will be able to get their hands on the two new Apple TV models. A 32 GB model will cost $149, while a 64 GB version will sell for $199.
Check here for more news from Apple's September announcements.