Apple TV: The tech giant's bid to take over your living room
Apple TV, by the company's own admission, is a product which triggers conflicting emotions. In 2010 chief executive Tim Cook famously dismissed the set top box as a hobby, as Apple was more focused on being a mobile device company.
He backtracked in 2014 after it generated $1bn in a single year, saying: "It's a little more difficult to call it a hobby these days".
It's not unfair to say that Apple TV lacks the star power of the iPhone, or the simplicity of the iPad. Its userface has been criticised in the past for being too clunky, and while it's carved out a niche in the American market, stiff competition means it hasn't had the chance to define its product sector the way the iPod did the mp3 player, or the Apple Watch has the smartwatch.
All that could be set to change with the impending announcement of a new, gaming-focused fourth-generation Apple TV, with a streaming service likely to follow next year. Here is the Apple TV's history, and with any hope, its future.
1993 - 1994
Apple's very first foray into the world of TV integration was the short-lived Macintosh TV, giving you the choice to switch between the computer display and a cable-ready TV, controlled by a remote. One of the few black Macs, only 10,000 units were made before it was discontinued in 1994.
1994 - 1995
Apple developed the little-known Apple Interactive Television Box in collaboration with BT and Belgacom during the mid-nineties. It never went on full sale, though a manual is still available to view on Apple's website.
"With the Apple Interactive Television Box (Apple Interactive TV Box) and the services of an interactive service provider, your TV is no longer something to just “watch.” Now, you can take control of your TV set, using it in many exciting new ways," the manual reads.
1995 - 1997
Multimedia technology console the Apple Bandai Pippin was released in collaboration with Bandai in the mid-nineties, and combined a networked computer with a home games console. Players had the pick of exciting-sounding games including Mr. Potato Head Saves Veggie Valley, Exotic Sushi and Gus Goes to the Kooky Carnival in search of Rant in an effort to compete with the Sega Saturn, but Steve Jobs pulled the plug on it when he returned to Apple in 1997.
Apple previewed Apple TV, then known as iTV, in the September of 2006. It ran a stripped-back version of OS X Tiger with a modified Front Row interface. Steve Jobs described it as a "work in progress". It was later renamed Apple TV after Britain's very own ITV said it would “vigorously defend” its brand and reputation should Apple push forward with the monicker.
Apple TV is formally announced at the Macworld conference, alongside the very first iPhone and rebranding from Apple Computer to Apple Inc. The company begins taking pre-orders, clocking up more than 100,000 reservations by the end of the month ahead of the March sale date.
The first 40GB Apple TV goes on sale, with a 160GB version following in May.
Support for YouTube on Apple TV is revealed as coming to devices in mid-June, with YouTube adding videos each week until the full catalogue becomes available in the autumn.
Apple announces a software upgrade freeing Apple TV from needing to be connetced to a computer in order to stream or sync content, as well as allowing you to rent films on the iTunes Store directly from your TV. “No more driving to the video store or waiting for DVDs to arrive in the mail,” said Steve Jobs at the time. What a relief.
The second generation Apple TV is launched. Macworld called it "a remarkable deal if you’ve got an HDTV and have made an investment in iTunes purchases... This is a good product that has the potential to erase its status as a hobby and become a hit—but it feels like a few pieces of the puzzle are still missing."
Speculation Apple planned to release a 37-inch TV in 2012 proved unfounded. Jobs told his biographer Walter Isaacson that he had "cracked" the problem of building a television shortly before he died in the October of 2011. Rumours of a TV began to intensify following the book's publication just after Jobs' death.
The third version of Apple TV is released. Alphr said that as a standalone device it was still "painfully short of compelling content". A Rev A versionis pushed out in January 2013.
Tim Cook confirms that 2.7 million third-generation units had been sold throughout 2012 to date.
Apple files for a patent for an Apple TV remote with inbuilt Touch ID sensor, allowing users to use their biometric data to enter TV passwords, created personalised profiles or controlling connected devices. It explores how biometric information collected through fingerprint sensors could be harnessed to personalise user profiles and acess accounts without the need for 'annoying and/or burdensome' logins.
Data could also be supplied through retinal or facila images, palm, toe or hand prints, voice samples and gesture patterns, according to the filing. It is later granted in July 2015.
Cook reveals that Apple TV generated $1 billion of revenue the previous year.
Details from a confidential email sent by Jobs in 2010 reveal the future of Apple TV, including a strategy to "stay in the living room game" and create a “must have” accessory for iOS devices. He planned to add content from NBC, CBS, Viacom and HBO, and even considered creating a "magic wand" to control the device.
Cook announces that Apple has sold a total of 25 million Apple TVs to date. Rumours, later proved baseless, circulate that Apple is planning to unveil a new Apple TV with App Store and Siri integration at June's Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC).
Apple looks set to unveil a new, fourth-generation Apple TV with gaming capabilities.