Apple was, it seemed, somewhat late with the 4th generation 1080p Apple TV that shipped in October of 2015. Not delivering at 4K device at that time could be forgiven because High Dynamic Range (HDR) specs hadn’t been formalized during its development. But for the holidays of 2016, most all the 4K/UHD TVs have HDR. The new Roku Ultra has HDR. So what is Apple thinking?


Apple, according to CEO Tim Cook, has an intense interest in TV. To quote Mr. Cook:

“I would confirm that television has intense interest with me and many other people here.

Apple, by the way, always builds the best product it can. So when I think about Apple having an intense interest in something, I tend to think about both accomplishment and joyful products that amaze and delight.

4th gen Apple TV with Siri

An often frustrating Siri and remote are Apple’s plan for the “best” Apple TV


What I keep coming back to is that Apple has involved itself in what I would call Imperial Entanglements. By that I mean that the TV industry is complex. There are many players who all protect their IP and have strong agendas. And so, when Apple plays in in this arena, it’s pitting itself against the vested interests of many entities, all with seasoned executives who know how to maximize revenues and look out for themselves. Is that a place where Apple can flourish?

Remember when Apple tried to develop a subscription service? It would have undercut the interests of networks, but Apple felt that its impressive stature would convince others to go along with them. Apple TV would be the wave of the future.

Except it hasn’t been.

The result has been a new TV app that doesn’t support Netflix. Plus, we have an Apple TV that doesn’t have the Amazon Prime movie app, presumably because Amazon and Apple aren’t getting along well enough to strike a beneficial deal for both parties.

Amidst all that, Apple isn’t exactly threatening to put Roku out of business with a world-class set-top-box with 4K/UHD, HDR10, perhaps Dolby Vision, optical audio and a stunning industrial design. Roku is the market share leader amongst these devices, and by necessity, always has the best and latest in technology. They have to. Roku acts like a company that’s hungry and works hard to maintain its position. Its customers a loyal and love them for that. As Lily Tomlin once said, Apple is the phone company. It doesn’t have to care.

In TV, the Best is Advanced, Flexible, Expandable, Competitive

In fact, Apple seems totally disinterested in building fabulous hardware that fits in with lots of different kinds of home systems and has the capacity to get us excited.

Apparently, another year will pass as millions of customers upgrade to 4K/UHD, and one of the first accessories they’ll buy is a 4K/UHD/HDR Roku player.

Meanwhile, Apple always seems to be struggling to get its act together on the app side and has to settle for incomplete, less than thrilling content deals and technical arrangements.

A healthy part of me wishes Apple would just build the coolest, best TV hardware on the planet—an impressive and attractive platform on which other content providers want to play.

Right now, I don’t see how Apple’s “intense interest in TV” and its legacy of always building the best is being achieved.

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I have been waiting for the 5 generation Apple TV with 4K HDR. I won’t buy until I get that. I was hoping that it would be available for this holiday, but will have to wait. Why would I want it now? There is 4k content available even though it isn’t the bulk, that will quickly change. Future proofing. ….I want to have the system that supports what the future standard will be over the next few years. Until then, I am sticking with my 3rd generation. Perhaps Apple knows this and is working hard to make the 5th gen… Read more »


@MarcusNewton, here are a few points to consider: 1) While Netflix and others have some 4K content, the bulk of available programming is still HD and none of the streaming services offer HDR content. For that, you need a BluRay player and a BluRay disc which both support the specific HDR format of your TV. It’s like HD-DVD versus BluRay all over again. HDR is still a Wild West. 2) 4K TV’s upscale all HD content to pseudo-4K. This includes output from from the Apple TV. As a result, content from the Apple TV looks just as good as HD… Read more »


Your welcome John. I agree about the OSs. I think my Samsung is using Android as well, so that is something to keep an eye on. Also, Samsung wants people to have Samsung accounts and remain logged-in while using the TV. They even want people to enter their zip-code for the alleged purpose of getting extra information about local TV. It is all very suspicious. So it is both privacy scary and bot-net scary. My 2-year-old Yamaha audio receiver has two 4K pass-throughs, and before I bought the 4K TV, I ran my Apple TV and everything else through the… Read more »


@pjs_boston: I don’t think that is true. I have a 4K HDR TV, and I do not consider myself a videophile. I have had no problems finding 4K content for anything released this year. For example, Netflix does not show the 4K content option unless a person is on the $11.99 streaming plan, and have a 4K TV. When I am on Netflix on my regular Sony HD TV there is no 4K content listed, only regular HD. But when I am on my Samsung 4K HDR TV, the Netflix app has an entire row labeled “4K” to let people… Read more »


I totally agree with everything in the article. It is painful to watch this opportunity pass by Apple. Did the car project zap that much out of Apple that all the other projects fell by the wayside and are now in disarray? The 4K Roku seems really nice. Another thing I will point out is that the TV manufactures themselves are building up an immunity to external smart TV devices. For example, my Samsung 4K HDR TV has apps built right into it; along with wifi ac and ethernet. (My router and TV are in the same spot, so I… Read more »


There is only a vanishingly small amount of 4K content available on streaming services, even less HDR 4K content. In addition, there is no dominant standard for HDR content. Only videophiles and über-geeks are currently able to wade through the confusion and can actually find the correct content for their equipment.

Apple is not late to the party. The party hasn’t started yet….