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Apple TV rumor roundup: Did Apple pull the plug on new Apple TV for WWDC event?

A new Apple TV is coming, but it looks like we’ll have to wait a bit longer than we thought. Originally expected to be introduced at Apple’s WWDC event June 8, rumors now indicate the company is pushing back the products launch due to trouble finalizing deals needed to finish its streaming TV service plans. We’ve got all the latest news, starting with this latest development, indexed below.

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Apple reverses course, reportedly pulls the plug on new Apple TV at WWDC

Apple’s Worldwide Developer conference, which starts June 8, is expected to play host to a bevy of noteworthy new products, but the highly anticipated follow-up to Apple’s current-generation Apple TV apparently won’t be one of them. According to the New York Times, Apple’s pulled the plug on plans to unveil a refreshed Apple TV set-top streaming device next week.

The decision wasn’t made lightly — the announcement of a new Apple TV at the conference was on track as recently as mid-May — but Apple execs ultimately determined “the product was not ready for prime time,” sources tell the Times. The affects are wide-reaching, not only postponing the device’s unveiling, but also sidelining the improved remote control system to ship with the new box, as well as the app development tools for it.

While it’s a major disappointment to those of us neck deep in the streaming world, the push back of the new Apple TV’s launch is probably for the best. Apple’s forthcoming Internet TV service was once expected to punctuate the new hardware, but the company’s insistence on including live local TV helped derail plans for a June unveiling. Now, Apple has an opportunity to bring the TV service and platform back into alignment, although it may be months before it can do so — the company has yet to sign a major content provider for network channels like CBS or ABC, and is still in the process of negotiating terms individually with local network affiliates, many of which aren’t even owned by the networks.

A compelling Internet TV service to compete with other offerings like Dish’s Sling TV and Sony’s Playstation Vue will make the new hardware a much easier sell. While rumored Siri integration, speedier internal components, a new remote, and an app store would’ve put the new set-top box head-and-shoulders above the current-generation Apple TV in terms of functionality, in many ways it would’ve merely matched competing devices on the market. Amazon’s Fire TV, for instance, features voice search and apps, as do devices sporting Google’s Android TV platform, and Roku streaming devices.

Without a “killer app” to nudge purchasers, it’s not improbable to expect the cheaper, yet still-capable Apple TV ($69) would’ve continued to sell briskly until the debut of the Internet TV service.

In the interim, it seems, Apple’s current Apple TV will remain the Cupertino-based company’s de facto flagship streamer. And although the device debuted in 2012, it’s hardly going neglected — it continues to accrue streaming apps, and is expected to gain HomeKit remote features in a future firmware update.

 CBS will ‘probably’ be part of new Apple TV service

When Apple’s new online TV service makes its debut, CBS will “probably” be included — if the price is right.

Outspoken CBS CEO Les Moonves explained that he is in the process of negotiating terms with Apple about including the network in Apple’s forthcoming Web TV service at the Re/Code conference today. While he doesn’t know when Apple will launch the service, he did lay out in definite terms just what it will take for Apple to bring CBS on board: “Money,” he said succinctly.

“Apple TV is trying to change the universe,” Moonves continued. He expects that the over-the-top service will be similar to Dish Network’s Sling TV and Sony’s PlayStation Vue, both of which offer live TV delivered online. The service had been rumored to launch as early as June but will likely be delayed until September or later thanks in part to an effort to bring local network channels like CBS affiliates into the fold. The service is expected to offer around 15 to 17 channels for a price of $30-40 per month.

“I think the age of the 200 channel universe is slowly dying,” Moonves said. “The good news for us, is any one of those groups will need CBS.” He also noted that, in a proposed deal, CBS would receive a larger proportion of revenue from Apple than the network currently does from its inclusion in traditional pay-TV packages. This aspect of the deal is certainly significant, as the network wants to minimize revenue lost from cord cutters opting for Apple’s new service over cable or satellite.

Moonves said that he met with Apple SVP Eddy Cue to talk about it, and it’s part of an “ongoing conversation.” And while he understands the undeniable consumer shift from cable TV to streaming video services, the exec remains hopeful about the future prospects of network television.

“We’re being watched by more people now than we were 10 years ago,” Moonves said at the conference, as reported by TechCrunch. “Seventy percent or more of our audiences still watches in the time period when the show is. The other 30 percent are watching elsewhere.”

Still, Moonves admitted that the tide is turning when it comes to traditional TV. “Is that (70 percent) getting less? Absolutely.”

Apple’s plans to integrate local live TV may delay its streaming service

Apple’s television ambitions grow with each passing day, it seems. In a move to set its rumored web-based TV subscription apart from the many competitors that beat it to market, Apple’s reportedly working on integrating live programming from local stations. And it’s not just a passing fancy: Apple prioritizes local TV so highly that it’s willing to push back the planned fall debut of its service to tie up the necessary arrangements, Re/code reports.

The bevy of parties involved, and to some extent money, have proven to be the biggest sticking points. Judging by the experiences of other big media players, that’s unsurprising — ABC spent two years getting the rights to stream local broadcasts via its Watch ABC app in a measly eight cities, and CBS had to cut separate deals with 25 individual affiliate partners to bring live streaming to 94 markets.

Some broadcasters aren’t thrilled about having to pay their own way. Citing anonymous executives, Re/code reports that local stations may be required to front the cost for costly streaming infrastructure — Apple won’t be handling the digital feeds itself. Plus, not all station bosses are convinced that live local TV will appeal to the demographic most likely to adopt the service.

Still, other executives believe Apple’s marketing muscle and hardware penetration have the potential to boost viewership – “this is supposed to be for 30 million people,” one executive who’d spoken to Apple told Re/code. And they reportedly perceive the risk to the traditional TV model as slim — unlike Sling TV and more recently FiOS, Apple will initially stick to a uniformly priced, single bundle of channels.

Apple envisions a multiplatform, web-based TV plan with a greater diversity of content than Sony and Dish Network can offer. But that seems a long way from fruition – Re/code reports that the Cupertino-based company has yet to sign a TV programmer up for its service. If missing a June 8 reveal at the Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) wasn’t already a virtual certainty, it definitely is now.

The slimmed down new Apple TV will ship with Apple Watch controls

The new Apple TV, a looming heavyweight among streaming set-top boxes, is getting a new remote, Siri integration, and a new video streaming service — that we already knew. But it seems that’s not all Apple has in store ahead of the expected formal unveiling of the reimagined hardware at the company’s Worldwide Developers Conference next month. According to well-placed sources at 9to5Mac, the Apple Watch will play a central role in navigation around the revamped interface.

The report, which is still rather nebulous at this point, says Apple plans to position the Apple Watch as a “primary input device” for the latest Apple TV streaming device. Depending on how you read it, that might imply Siri-powered commands or touch commands — conceivably, Apple could build a companion app for the Apple Watch with a directional pad, quick shortcuts and prompts for voice. Beyond conjecture, though, it’s not clear just what form the integration will take.

The reportedly imminent Apple TV-focused SDK (software developer’s kit) might provide a few clues — 9to5Mac reports that a new version of Xcode (the framework against which iOS devices are developed) will be unveiled in June. Known as “MuirTrail” internally, it reportedly includes an appropriately named resource, TV Kit, for coding Apple TV software.

Applications for the new device will reportedly reside in the forthcoming Apple TV App Store, a new digital storefront on which we’ve previously reported. In addition to a number of subscription-dependent video apps like NBC Sports Live Extra and CBS Sports, new apps (and possibly games) will eventually live alongside Apple’s online pay-TV service (detailed further on page 5), which is still scheduled to launch later this year.

Software is important, of course, but some would argue it’s nothing without great hardware to match, and it sounds like Apple’s got that covered. While the new Apple TV may measure “about twice as large” as current-generation units, 9to5Mac sources describe the finished product as significantly “slimmer.” Considering the third-generation Apple TV’s 0.9-inch height, that’s impressive.

As is often the case, unofficial sources can’t quite fill in all the gaps — it seems likely we’ll have to wait until Apple’s June keynote for the full rundown on the new Apple TV, as well as the forthcoming Web TV service. From what we know, though, it’s shaping up to be an impressive bit of living room technology. It might not be a 4K television, granted, but perhaps that’s for the best.

New Apple TV may have a redesigned remote with a touchpad

We’ve known for some time that after going years without an update, Apple has big plans for the next model of the Apple TV. While there have already been whisperings of plenty of changes, it seems the biggest change might come to the remote.

For the first time in a long time, a piece of Apple hardware — in this case the Apple TV’s remote — may get slightly larger in its newest incarnation. Of course there’s a good reason for this larger size: it’s necessary to accommodate a touchpad.

Previous versions of the Apple TV have used a remote paradigm that we all know well: buttons and a four-way directional control pad. While there will still be two physical buttons on the remote, the touchpad will be used for most of the navigation, an Apple employee who wished to remain anonymous told the New York Times. The remote will be roughly the same size as the Amazon Echo’s remote, according to the same source.

This comes on top of what were already some interesting tidbits on the new hardware. While the new Apple TV will obviously see hardware upgrades — a variant of Apple’s A8 chip has been rumored — additional rumors suggest that it will add Siri voice control functionality and its own app store supporting third-party apps.

In addition to these new features, Apple has a new business model in the works for its set-top box. For months we’ve heard that Apple has a Web-based TV service in the works that, unlike the similar Sling TV, may carry major networks ABC, CBS, and Fox. The service is also rumored to cost around $30 or $40 per month, making it more expensive than Sling TV.

While most of the buzz around Apple’s upcoming Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) has been centered around iOS and OS X, it’s also expected that a revamp of Beats Music and the newest version of the Apple TV will be revealed at the event.

The conference will run from June 8 through June 12 and, as in previous years, will be held at the Moscone West Conference Center in San Francisco.

Apple to introduce new Apple TV with Siri, app store support in June

If you were disappointed by the lack of TV hardware announcements at the Apple Watch event, don’t fret — you might not have to wait long to get your fix. According to a report from BuzzFeed, Apple is planning to unveil new Apple TV hardware at the Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) in June. Reportedly, it will showcase both the Internet-based TV subscription service detailed by the Wall Street Journal last week, and new software additions in the form of an App Store and Siri integration.

According to Buzzfeed, which cites sources familiar with Apple’s plans, the new Apple TV represents a “significant overhaul” of the company’s long-running line of set-top boxes. On the user interface side, Apple’s Siri assistant will be integrated in some fashion, and Apple TV will finally gain an app store and public SDK. Concerning hardware, the device will apparently sport a variant of Apple’s A8 processor, wireless chips that will interface with some HomeKit-supported home automation products, and considerably more storage than the 8GB found in previous models.

BuzzFeed wasn’t able to nail down availability or price. Apple recently reduced the price of the third-generation Apple TV to $70, which could conceivably end up living alongside the new hardware as an entry-level tier.

As the report notes, the announcement would mark the first unveiling of a new Apple TV since early 2012. Apple’s been coy about its plans for television in the past, long describing the business as a “hobby” but making moves like these indicates grander plans. The company most recently announced a partnership with HBO to offer the premium cable service’s $15 per month Internet-based service, HBO Now, exclusively for three months.

Apple’s new video streaming service may land in September

We keep hearing about Apple supposedly knocking together some kind of online TV service, and the Wall Street Journal is the latest source to offer fresh tidbits on the apparent project.

The news outlet says the tech titan is moving towards the launch of a “slimmed-down bundle” of about 25 prominent channels from various networks, among them ABC, CBS, and Fox. ESPN and FX may also be included. It’s expected that Apple will charge around $30 to $40 a month for the service, significantly more than the similar $20-a-month Sling TV service from Dish Network.

Apple’s online service is expected to launch in September following an announcement in June, people familiar with the plans told the Journal, with subscribers able to watch shows on iPhones, iPads, iPod Touch models, and Apple TV set-top boxes.

Unsurprisingly, the complexity of the deals needed to launch an online TV service like this means Apple’s been hitting a few bumps along the way. For example, talks with NBCUniversal are yet to begin, apparently because of a dispute between Apple and cable giant Comcast, NBCUniversal’s parent company. The pair were in talks last year about a possible TV service, but talks ended when Apple reportedly accused Comcast of stringing it along while it worked on its own X1 cable box.

Without NBCUniversal on board, channels such as Bravo and USA will be missing from Apple’s service at launch.

The Journal’s report comes a month after Re/code also suggested Apple was making progress towards its goal of launching a Web-based TV service. Besides Sling TV, the tech firm will also be going up against, for example, Sony’s PlayStation Vue service, which is set to launch in the coming days with around 75 channels for between $50 and $80 a month, though the company is yet to announce official pricing.

That’s it for rumors at the moment, but we’ll keep you posted on everything we hear about the new Apple TV.

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