For as long as it’s been in existence, Apple TV has wanted to be something more than what it is. Whether it was purchasing and renting movies, downloading games and apps, or simply watching live programming, Apple’s digital media player has always been a step or two behind its expectations. Even as it’s matured from a Mac-reliant box to a standalone streaming dynamo, there’s always been a sense that Apple TV’s potential is greater than its reality. And while it may have graduated from its hobby status, there’s still a sense that it’s a secondary device, something that adds value to the existing ecosystem but doesn’t really stand on its own.
At least not yet. During Apple’s third-quarter earnings call last week, Tim Cook teased a future for Apple TV beyond voice-controlled viewing and simplified sign-ins: “You shouldn’t look at what’s there today and think we’ve done what we want to do,” he said. "We’ve built a foundation that we think we can do something bigger off of.”
The message is clear: After nearly 10 years in existence, Apple TV might finally be ready for its closeup.
Apple TV is the only Apple device that relies on others’ content. From the apps to the channels, even the photos in our libraries, every bit of the media we enjoy on our Apple TVs is made by someone other than Apple.
But that won’t be the case for too much longer. Just this past week it was reported that Apple had purchased the distribution rights an unscripted TV series based on James Corden’s Late Late Show sensation, “Carpool Karaoke.” Also in development is Planet of the Apps, a Project Greenlight-style reality show that will chart the search for “the next great app.” Finally there’s the rumored Vital Signs, a semi-autobiographical drama starring none other than Dr. Dre.
And there are sure to be more to follow. Apple has an extraordinary amount of clout and capital to pump into original programming, and within a few years it could easily have a slate of series that rivals Netflix, Amazon, and even HBO. And if Apple TV is the only streaming box that allows you to see them in all their glory, it would instantly turn into something far greater than it is today.
Streaming boxes are still secondary to the DVR boxes we rent from our cable companies. Our library of recorded programs is the ultimate in on-demand programming, and cable subscribers spend more time navigating the often clunky menus of their DVRs than they do with any streaming box.
Of course, if you subscribe to a cable service you have precious few choices for third-party DVRs (if the operator allows for such a thing at all), but there could be changes on the horizon. The FCC recently took aim at DVR lock-in, proposing that operators deliver their service to any device using any open standard, not just the standard coaxial hookup.
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