There’s no question that living room entertainment is a bit stagnant. You can talk to your Xbox One, but it’s not exactly like having a conversation with someone. Many of the satellite providers have focused on recording shows and offer a few apps but aren’t really investing in games. It’s not that easy to shop, browse the Web, or play games on one device.
That’s about to change, and Apple has the answer (of course).
The new Apple TV, announced today at a company event in San Francisco, is a game-changer because it intends to (finally) turn your television into the big-screen version of a computer and tablet that it has always wanted to be. The device lets you talk to your TV as though you are discussing programming options with a friend. You can ask about first-season episodes of The Mentalist or search for Alfred Hitchcock movies. What I like about it is that the simple voice interactions don’t require that you know exactly what to say at all times.
The device is also designed for easier shopping. This could evolve into something that goes beyond Bing.com on a big-screen browser. A demo showed the potential for how you can easily view clothing options and order your wardrobe quickly. Major League Baseball showed off another demo that lets you quickly find games and watch them at 60 frames per second. They also showed ancillary player tracking data that appears next to the game video.
My favorite demo involved the game Crossy Road. It is now in multiplayer, which means you can use the Apple Remote to control the game character with a friend. It’s hard to say if the remote works adequately as a controller, but it follows the model of the iPad and iPhone that make gaming more social and immediate, and less complex. (And that seems to be working out.)
The Apple TV will come out in October and uses a brand new operating system that is designed to help developers crank out apps as quickly as they do for the iPhone and iPad. It’s priced at $149, which is about right as an entertainment device meant for everyday users.
I’m a big fan of the Apple TV because of how it makes living room entertainment easier. I know a few family members who get confused by the Xbox when all they want to do is watch Hulu or listen to music. And the games on most satellite provider DVRs are pretty lame. There’s a trend I’ve seen where the big AAA titles in games, those first-person shooters with intense visuals, have lost some favor even with the hardcore crowd who seem to be more into Clash of Clans right now. Many casual gamers stay away from that entire segment and prefer Angry Birds these days.
The Apple TV could win this crowd of Hulu-watching, Angry Bird-playing, Forever 21-shopping consumers — it’s a huge segment. In fact, it’s the biggest segment of general consumers. There’s a good chance Apple TV could rebound in this market since falling out of favor and into obscurity a bit over the past few years. Come October, I will find out if it can catch on again.