So close, but so far: New Apple TV is still steps away from Jobs’ ultimate vision

new apple tv strives for steve jobs ultimate vision comes up short so close  but far still steps away from
There may be a reason Apple named its set-top box simply Apple TV. Perhaps in 2007 when the first Apple TV debuted, the name symbolized Apple’s hope that it would one day achieve the Holy Grail of TV that Steve Jobs envisioned before his death: Syncing all of your media devices “over the simplest interface you could imagine.”

It’s been a long wait for the new Apple TV to arrive (two and a half years to be exact), and a lot longer since Jobs first uttered those words. But, from what we saw at Apple’s special event in San Francisco, the shiny new box that Apple debuted today appears to come tantalizingly close to realizing his dream.

The touch, the feel of Apple

When it comes to the user experience, Apple’s iPhone and iPad have created an intimacy between user and content that makes navigation second nature. We slide, touch, and expand our fingers along smooth glass, and the device reacts in kind. But that experience hasn’t translated to the largest screen in the house. The new Apple TV aims to do just that, starting with the remote.


With a thumb-operated touch pad up top and scarce buttons, the new remote presents a design that’s forehead-slappingly simple. It uses Bluetooth 4.0 so you don’t need line-of-sight, offers a Lightning connection with a rechargeable battery that runs up to 3 months per charge, and will control A/V receivers and other devices over CEC (consumer electronics communication). The device also doubles as a gaming controller, and multi-player games will let users connect with an iPhone or iPod touch — no Androids allowed for now.

The box runs tvOS, a new operating system closely related to iOS 9, allowing for cross-platform development. That shared blood means you can do things like start a game on your phone and finish it at home. More noticeably, the interface has been cleaned up with sleek 3D-style icons that allow you to move them around with your thumb, a broad search screen that will tell you where to find content, and gorgeous screensavers with HD video.

More powerful, and more capable search … for iTunes anyway

Aside from the futuristic, pie-in-the-sky TV experience Jobs always wanted, the Apple TV needed some decent voice-automated search just to keep up with rivals like Roku 3 and the Amazon Fire TV — Siri to the rescue! For now, the voice attendant is integrated into Netflix, Hulu, HBO, and of course, iTunes.

Apple’s grand vision of the future relies on your total immersion in the Apple universe.

During the presentation we saw Siri do some pretty cool things, not the least of which was backing up 15 seconds and temporarily turning on captions when the presenter asked “Siri, what did she say?” Siri also pulled off other tricks like finding the moment when Edward Norton shows up in a Modern Family episode. Siri can also find just the newest family movies, for instance, or dig deep into subsections to search by director, date, cast, and even age rating. The device’s new A8 processor seemed to make that process extremely quick, though we’ll have to wait to see if the $150 Apple TV can smoke streaming peers that run just $100

Siri support will quickly and easily navigate to the most minute of choices available on iTunes, if it works as flawlessly as it did on stage. But what about third-party apps? We doubt an Amazon app will allow for such powerful search parameters across platforms, for instance, but we can imagine Netflix bowing to Apple’s developers, which could offer a luxurious way to get through Big Red’s massive vault of content. Unfortunately, for now we just don’t know how well Siri search will work outside of iTunes.

Apps, apps, and more apps

“The Future of TV is apps,” Tim Cook said as the Apple TV presentation began. To that end, Apple put tvOS in the hands of 11 million developers, and we expect to see some impressive new efforts that will help close the gap between your mobile devices and your big screen at home, creating a singular entertainment experience.

The new Major League Baseball app from makes an impressive first step. It offers a host of live games streaming at 60 frames per second in HD — if you’ve ponied up the $130 yearly subscription fee, that is. The system showed just how impressive streaming live sports could be, allowing users to call up games, go dual-screen, and even check out stats, all with the swipe of a thumb.

The appearance of Apple Music is another stride toward Jobs’ vision. When the new service premiered last June, it offered an unprecedented level of integration for users who bought in, allowing you to upload every song you’ve ever collected, burned, or downloaded to sit side by side with music on your phone or tablet, and 30 million songs on demand. Now that Apple Music is on the Apple TV, the system has come full circle, allowing you to access all of your music in the cloud, without the need for AirPlay, hard drives, or even your iPhone.

Like everything else Apple makes, however, Apple’s grand vision of the future relies on your total immersion in the Apple universe. As long as you don’t deviate from that little Apple icon, all of your devices can now sync effortlessly together, putting your music, streaming media, and mobile video games in a single, infinite loop that follows you everywhere.

The elephant in San Francisco

Despite new features, cross-platform apps, and an Apple-intuitive interface, there’s still one thing missing to fulfill Jobs’ vision: live TV. Apple may believe that the future of TV is apps, but until those apps contain live sports, local broadcasts, news, and other events, viewers will still demand broadcasts, and Apple TV doesn’t touch them.

There’s still one thing missing to fulfill Jobs’ vision: live TV.

It’s well known that Apple has been working on its own Internet TV service to deliver just that for some time now. Back in 2014, Apple attempted to forge a partnership with Comcast to make the new service a reality, but that partnership quickly folded, and Apple has gone it alone from there.

But shaking hands with thousands of affiliates is an unprecedented mess of a project. Some reports also suggest that several networks are playing hardball on price: Apple wants to offer its new service for $40 a month, and the networks want more revenue.

At any rate, the service is expected to be pushed back to 2016.

Considering the new iPhone shoots 4K video, it also seems like a notable omission that the new Apple TV doesn’t stream 4K content. That said, it’s probably a savvy move by Apple — 4K content is still woefully lacking, and what’s more, it’s unlikely customers of Apple’s affordable streaming box are early-adopters of 4K TVs. Give Apple two years for the content to arrive, and you can bet we’ll see another generation upgrade.

All told, Apple’s new device is an enticing new addition to the field. We’ll have to wait until we get our hands on one, but the device should stack up well with flagship devices from Roku and Amazon, and hopefully best them. Moreover, the new Apple TV is achingly close to accomplishing Steve Jobs’ ultimate vision. Perhaps the next generation will finally turn that page.

The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not reflect the beliefs of Digital Trends.


‘Spyro Reignited Trilogy’ proves nostalgia can only blind for so long

Spyro Reignited Trilogy is a faithful and beatiful remaster of the PlayStation classics, but its dedication to retaining the original experience ultimately hinders the experience. Spyro was great in the late-'90s, but it hasn't aged well.
Home Theater

Google Chromecast and Chromecast Ultra: Everything you need to know

Google's Chromecast plugs into your TV's HDMI port, allowing you to stream content from your tablet, laptop, or smartphone directly to your TV. Here's what you need to know about all iterations, including the 4K-ready Chromecast Ultra.

Samsung will reportedly announce its folding smartphone at MWC in February

Samsung has been showcasing bendable display tech for a few years and now a folding smartphone might finally arrive. The Galaxy X, or perhaps the Galaxy F, may be the company's first example. Here's everything we know about it.
Movies & TV

Winter coming in spring? HBO reveals 'Game of Thrones' season 8 premiere date

With the eighth and final season looming, Game of Thrones fever has officially become a pandemic. Our list of all the relevant news and rumors will help make the wait more bearable, if you don't mind spoilers.
Home Theater

Put your home theater to the test with these spectacular Blu-ray releases

What's the point of having all of that awesome home theater gear if you can't breed a little jealousy in your friends and family? We've put together this list of fantastic Blu-rays that have the goods to drop a few jaws.
Home Theater

Learn how to calibrate your home theater speakers for sheer audio bliss

Make your home theater rumble just right with our manual speaker setup guide, a simple, step-by-step walkthrough to getting the most from your audio equipment without needing to rely on imperfect automatic calibration.
Product Review

These AirPod look-alikes are better in every way but one

With silicone eartips, water resistance, and a more palatable price tag, Mobvoi’s Ticpods Free are impressive AirPod doppelgangers. But for all the great things they have going for them, there’s one flaw holding them back.
Home Theater

How to make your TV squeaky clean for not much green

Not sure how to clean the LCD, OLED, or plasma display that's the cornerstone of your living room? You don't need to buy expensive cleaning solutions to clean your TV -- we'll teach you how to do it with simple household items.
Home Theater

If you've got questions about Ultra HD Blu-ray, we've got answers

Ultra HD Blu-ray discs and players are a killer way to beef up your home theater. Here's everything you need to know about one of the most significant advances to hit home entertainment in years.

All the Best Target Black Friday deals for 2018

The mega-retailer opens its doors to the most competitive shoppers at 6 p.m. on Thursday, November 22, and signs indicate that the retailer means business this year. We've sifted through all of the deals, from consumer electronics to small…

The Best Black Friday Deals from Best Buy in 2018

We've been hard at work assembling all the best Black Friday deals Best Buy offers in 2018 and putting them in one place to save you time and money this holiday season. From laptops to TVs, game consoles to smart speakers and much more…
Home Theater

From game consoles to 4K UHD spinners, these are the best Blu-ray players

Streaming may be popular, but the disc isn't dead yet. To get the very best picture and sound quality from your system, you need to be watching Blu-ray or 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray discs, and these are the best Blu-ray players you can buy.
Home Theater

What’s new on Amazon Prime Video (December 2018)

Amazon Prime Video adds new titles each month that are available for free to all Prime members. Check out our list to find all the content hitting Amazon Prime Video in November and December 2018, from new original series to classic films.
Product Review

Hisense’s new H8E 4K TV serves up a pretty picture at a very nice price

Budget TVs continue to get more attractive and that includes the latest from Chinese TV maker Hisense. The company’s new H8E, which offers 4K resolution, HDR, and a slick design for well under $500.