AMITIAE - Friday 11 September 2015

Cassandra: Apple Event (3) - Apple TV: Good in Certain Areas Perhaps

apple and chopsticks


By Graham K. Rogers


Several products appeared at Apple's event this week. With no Macs, focus was on iOS-related technology as if Apple is redefining how we use our devices, particularly in the home. Most of the introduction to the new Apple TV was done by Eddy Cue with some help from selected developers.

Having returned to the stage to summarise the iPads, Tim Cook began to discuss Apple TV - "Your TV". His background emphasised the position that TV plays in our lives and he referred to it as the Golden Age of television, but the experience itself hasn't changed that much in decades, while innovation thrives in other areas. This was about to change, Cook hinted.

Apple provocatively believes that the future of TV is apps. Much content on Apple devices is already consumed through apps: search for what you want; watch when and where you want; and interact in new ways. To achieve this new goal, Cook claimed that there is a need for powerful hardware that runs on a modern OS, to provide a new user experience. This also needs powerful developer tools and of course an app store. The list is a perfect pointer for a new Apple solution which (of course) was about to be revealed.

The new Apple TV introduction began with another well-crafted video, with comments not by Jony Ive but Siri: a clue to some of the interaction methods. As the video ran I had certain doubts as, so far, the Apple TV experience here has lagged considerably, with fewer movies, fewer channels and no TV programs at all. That content is completely controlled by a few companies here, while new movies rarely appear and much content is totally unavailable.

Apple TV - Eddy Cue

Eddy Cue, wearing a bright red shirt and equally vivid red shoes appeared on stage to run through the details: a powerful set top box; a new remote control; and an "incredible" user interface. This begins with the redesigned remote that now has a glass, touch surface like the iPhone, for easy scrolling across the screen to make selections. The remote is black, rather than the aluminium finish of the current remotes. There are 5 buttons which are positioned differently: there seemed less balance in the siting of these input buttons.

There is also voice interactivity with a Siri button. A request should produce a selection on a panel over the bottom part of the screen, leaving most of the interface clear, so that users can keep track of where they were. Content screens have been redesigned, so looked clear and bright.

A demo began with the screen savers: now slo-mo video rather than stills using the Ken Burns Effect. The Home Screen looked familiar, but buttons and icons have been redesigned and tidied up considerably. The Home Screen also now has App Store, Photos and Apple Music icons. The Siri search feature and other controls worked beautifully, but the cynic in me wonders (after the watered-down Spotlight) how this is going to work in this town.

While watching, Siri can be asked about unrelated content, such as sports scores or the weather. A panel with the requested content appears over the bottom section of the screen, so viewing is not totally disrupted. If more details are wanted, swiping up will cover the screen, but the movie will be paused.

Apple TV

Cue returned and showed that, as well as the new features, all of the existing content is still available: it is here that the product falls down in this region, although if Apple Music and Beats Radio are included (no reason why not as they are already available here, albeit in a slightly trimmed down form), this will be much appreciated, particularly in this house. I may need to buy some more speakers as those in the TV really won't cut it.

The newest part of Apple TV is the inclusion of apps. Again, there is no reason why these would not be available. Apps depend on the TV OS that Cue announced and which is available for developers immediately. It is based on iOS and built for the living room. Developers will be familiar with the technologies they can use. Cue is confident that some of the 11 million developers will produce some creative apps.

Apple TV

As with the original iPad introduction, a few select developers were given early access: Netflix, HBO, HULU, some games and several others. I doubt whether these will be available when Apple TV comes here as Netflix is not streamed here and HBO is part of the TV monopoly. Some demonstrations were given by Hipster Whale, whose Crossy Road was well-received; Harmonix with Beat Sports; Gilt (a shopping app - available in the Thai App Store); MLB, with live games and stats.

Developers can produce universal apps, so a single purchase buys the app for iOS devices and for Apple TV. A useful option with this is that a user can play a game on the iOs device, then pick up later on the Apple TV.

Apple TV

The Apple TV has a 64-bit, A8 processor, Bluetooth 4.0, 802.11ac WiFi (something that was on my wish-list for the product) with MIMO, and IR receiver. The device is only 10mm high and has ports for power, HDMI (cable sold separately) and Ethernet. Like Apple Pencil, the remote can be charged using a Lightning connector.

A question that seemed to be unanswered was whether or not the device was capable of handling 4K video. Christian Zibreg on iDownloadBlog examined the Technical Specifications page which shows that output is HDMI 1.4 and theorises that an option may exist that can be activated later, but he also adds that it has been discovered that the A8 processor in the iPhone 6 can render 4K, "So, technically the new Apple TV hardware can handle 4K."

There are two models:

  • 32 GB - $149 (5379 baht)
  • 64 GB - $199 (7184 baht)

With VAT of 7% we might expect prices here to be around 6000 and 8000 baht respectively. While I find the current version incredibly useful for displaying content sent from my computers and iOS devices, what the device itself allows is somewhat diluted in comparison to what users in the USA can see. While the App Store and Apple Music will make this more valuable, overall Apple TV has somewhat limited value here.

I hope this improves.

See also:

Cassandra: Apple Event (1) - Apple Watch and Watch OS 2

Cassandra: Apple Event (2) - Crossing the Rubicon with iPads and Accessories

Cassandra: Apple Event (4) - iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus: Desirable

Cassandra: Series 7000 Aluminum in iPhone 6 and iPhone 6s

Graham K. Rogers teaches at the Faculty of Engineering, Mahidol University in Thailand. He wrote in the Bangkok Post, Database supplement on IT subjects. For the last seven years of Database he wrote a column on Apple and Macs. He is now continuing that in the Bangkok Post supplement, Life.



Made on Mac

For further information, e-mail to

Back to eXtensions
Back to Home Page

All content copyright © G. K. Rogers 2015