Thoughts on the New Apple TV 4K and What’s Next

3 minute read
| Editorial

Apple got behind the curve while the 4K/UHD revolution was taking place. It’s playing catchup, and so what’s up next for Apple and 4K?

Apple TV 4K event logo

From the event. Image credit: Apple

Igniting the 4K/UHD Market

By all accounts, the Apple TV is currently in 4th place amongst streaming boxes. Roku leads, followed by Chromecast, Amazon fireTV and, finally, the Apple TV. Those customers who have wanted to jump on the 4K/UHD bandwagon have had good options from Roku and Amazon for a long time. Apple lost considerable opportunity by not shipping a plain-jane 4K Apple TV in 2015 and then upgrading it to HDR later.

In addition, those customers who may have been waiting for a 4K/UHD Apple TV before buying a new 4K/UHD TV set are not great in number. Apple can’t expect to throw its weight around in this market.

Perhaps Apple’s ace in the hole is security. It’s far better to have tvOS accessing the internet and various 4K streaming services than, say, a smart TV with its own dubious OS and apps. The TV makers don’t have Apple’s expertise when it come to system security. For those who want to take advantage of tvOS, connect it to their 4K/UHD TV via HDMI, and disable the smart TV’s internet access on Wi-Fi, Apple’s offering is compelling.

But this new product will still be a small part of the customer base, and Apple must rebuild its momentum.

Pricing and Design

I was hoping that Apple would, in recognition of the Apple TV’s falling market share, think about a new industrial design. The company knows how to get customers really excited about the look and feel of the iPhone X, yet it continues to stuff all kinds of cool hardware into an ugly black Apple TV brick. I wonder if I am alone in my views on this.

Apple TV 4K pricing kept in check.

Apple TV 4K pricing kept in check. Image credit: Apple

On the positive side, Apple could have used the 4K/UHD technology to artificially create perceived value by raising the price dramatically over and above its previous offerings. However, I think it was smart to set a reasonable price. They had to, actually. A 4K/HDR Roku Ultra box with HDR lists for about $100. Customers will tend to wonder where their money is going when they open the box and find a black brick.

4K/UHD Offerings

Apple has pulled off a miracle here. Previously, I had opined that “Apple Will Have a Tough Time Dictating 4K/UHD Movie Prices.” And yet Eddy Cue pulled it off, and congratulations are in order. UHD movies will cost the same as HD movies. For how long, Apple didn’t say. I sense some serious concessions were made to get this deal, but no matter how it was done, hats off to Mr. Cue.

Plus if you have purchased an HD movie in the past, and there’s a new 4K/UHD version, Apple will upgrade it for free. This is similar to what Apple did with iTunes Match years ago. It’s that kind of thinking by Apple that makes us smile when we find out about it.

Apple TV 4K

Apple TV 4K gets HDR video support. HDR and 10-bit color make all the difference. Image credit: Apple

Major Inflection Point

In Tim Cook’s introduction to the Apple TV 4K, he stated that we’re at a “major inflection point.” Aside from the dramatic wording at this kind of event, he’s right in a sense. 4K/UHD TV with HDR is a dramatic improvement in picture quality, and we’ve reached the point now where few can safely pooh-pooh the advances in the TV industry. Customers no longer see 4K as a boondoggle. Rather, it’s quickly becoming mainstream as prices for 50-inch and above 4K/UHD TVs are exceptional. (Unless you hold out for OLED.)

What remains to be seen is whether Apple treats this inflection point as its own opportunity to re-ignite the Apple TV and its own celebration of it. Just as the company did with the Mac at WWDC.

It almost seems that Apple was asleep at the wheel in 2016. Perhaps Apple Park was a distraction. Or the autonomous car project. But in 2017, Apple is firing on all cylinders, and now we’ve had two stunning events in a row: WWDC 2017 and the September 12 event.

There is so much Apple can do to wrap its head around the 4K/UHD industry and start to become an important player. It would be a shame if Apple just put those black bricks on the shelves of its retail stores and turned its attention to other things. Like last time.

But in 2017, Apple is smokin’ hot, and with the specter of creating its own TV content, it needs a flagship product to showcase its new offerings. Perhaps that’s the key to keeping Apple focused on the inflection point.

7 Comments Add a comment

  1. skipaq

    John, I love my black brick. It sit on my black finish TV stand under our black rimmed TV. It is unobtrusive and totally non distracting. We are going for this upgrade and a new LG 60″ HDR.

  2. PSMacintosh

    Design:
    An unobtrusive black box sounds best to me!
    I’d hate to have to pay more for “design”, especially design for designs sake.

    Any good design has to have a useful purpose, IMO.
    I wouldn’t want to end up with a cylinder Mac Pro-like device that is so highly impractical (for upgradeability, pricing, fit, etc.) that its cons outweigh its pros.

    Reason for existence:
    The bottom-line is that all of these “streaming boxes” are just retail stores for those who like to rent and buy movies and shows. I buy a box so I can buy shows from my TV.

    Where’s the real “new thing” in all of this? The compelling use. It’s not there yet……in 2017!

  3. aardman

    We have a large screen TV at home, two actually, and one of them is set up in a 250 watt per channel home theater system but the kids watch videos on their laptops using earphones. I really don’t see 4K to be a big momentous video revolution. TV picture quality, like audio fidelity, seems to have reached the ‘good enough’ plateau at 1080p for most people. Perhaps with TV, it is still storytelling that matters most not visual and aural fireworks. That’s a good thing.

  4. MarcusNewton

    I am very pleased about the new Apple TV 4K. I have a Samsung 4K HDR 60″ TV, and I am looking forward to hooking up the new Apple TV to it.

    Smart TV with dubious OS and apps is very true in my case. I seriously dislike Samsung’s OS and the way they deal with apps. If that wasn’t bad enough, Samsung monitor’s my viewing activity (including regular cable TV viewing) and resells that information.

    The only reason I had my Samsung TV connected to the Internet was 4K content through the Netflix app and Amazon. With the new Apple TV 4K, and whenever the Amazon app appears, I will be able to (joyfully) disconnect my Samsung TV from the Internet permanently.

    The only thing I would have liked to see different was the Siri remote design. I think there is some major usability issues with the Siri remote. Also, I think it is interesting that the Siri remote is listed as Bluetooth 4.0, while the Apple TV 4K has Bluetooth 5.0. Maybe Apple was working on a new remote that wasn’t finished in time, or maybe they kept it Bluetooth 4.0 for continued compatibility with the previous Apple TV.

  5. shameermulji

    Definitely a great upgrade. Only thing i would like to see from Apple is a bigger push into gaming. Also, incorporating the far-field mics (similar to the ones in HomePod) into the Apple TV could beef up the Siri experience and eliminate the need for a remote.

  6. MOSiX Man

    So Apple should have offered a 4K AppleTV in 2015, when only as of recently ‘customers no longer see 4K as a boondoggle’? I don’t see how Apple or AppleTV owners were really missing much, with regards to 4K, over the last couple years. As for bring the fourth-best-selling TV box, Apple has never sold the most of Anything because they aren’t the cheapest. Roku is dirt cheap and that’s what the majority want. It’s just like the phone market. The el-cheap-o Android phones sell for almost nothing, so they sell the most. Apple sells fewer but still makes more profit because many people are willing to pay more for a better experience. Same goes for the AppleTV.

  7. John Martellaro

    MOSIX Man. Yes Apple should have. A company in 2015, is/was wise to get out front and be considered a leader, even if some customers considered 4K a boondoggle. I builds the in-house learning curve and allows customers to grow with and embrace the technology. Amazon and Roku did that, and their market share surged. These days, it doesn’t pay for a company to wait and be considered a laggard.

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