What could possibly cause a half-a-year delay for a new Apple TV?

What could possibly cause a half-a-year delay for a new Apple TV?

Apple news sites lit up on an otherwise quiet Wednesday with rumors that Apple will unveil a new Apple TV by April, but won't sell it until Christmas. Though it was widely reported throughout the Apple blogosphere, the sole source for this was a report published today by Bloomberg:

Apple Inc. (AAPL) is planning to introduce a new Apple TV set-top box as early as April and is negotiating with Time Warner Cable Inc. and other potential partners to add video content, according to people with knowledge of the matter.

Time Warner Cable is an easy target for this sort of rumor. There's already an app for the Xbox 360 that enables Time Warner Cable customers to watch content. It's been out since last year. The app lets you watch video on demand and live television directly through your Xbox 360, without having to use a set top box as an intermediary device (though you still need to be a Time Warner cable and internet subscriber). It's entirely conceivable that Apple's working out a similar arrangement to bring that functionality to the Apple TV.

Of course Apple is working on a new Apple TV - they revise and refine products all the time. What's more, the evidence is there that Apple is planning a new Apple TV, and it has been there for a while. The timeline supports the idea too - It's been two years since a major change to the Apple TV (the third-generation box was given a minor revision last year).

Then there's the time frame - the Bloomberg piece suggests that Apple will announce the new Apple TV in April but won't ship it until the end of the year (they hedge their bets saying that's subject to change because of negotiations with content providers). I can't see a delay like that happening. People buy lots of Apple TVs. The Apple TV is the most popular streaming video box on the market. The Apple retailer I spend my weekends in often has trouble keeping them in stock.

If the rumor is true that there will be a delay between the new Apple TV's introduction and its availability, this wouldn't be the first time Apple's announced a product months before shipping it. Apple previewed the new Mac Pro in June but didn't ship it in December, and they pulled the old model from circulation. But the Mac Pro was a low-volume seller to begin with, and regulatory changes in the EU killed that market completely. The original iPhone and Apple TV were both announced months before they shipped, too - but they were entirely new products for Apple, not replacements for an already-popular device.

It's been rumored that you'll finally be able to play games or run other apps on your Apple TV instead of just passively viewing content channels. If it were necessary to get developers on board to create apps for a new Apple TV, I can understand a delay. But a half-year delay? Unlikely. For Apple to announce an Apple TV in April but not ship it for six months or longer would kill a decent revenue stream - Apple sells millions of Apple TVs ever year.

I just don't think the math works.

What do you think? Would Apple actually announce an Apple TV then wait months to release it? Or is it a shorter delay more likely? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Peter Cohen

Managing Editor of iMore, Mac and gaming specialist and all-around technologist. Follow him on Twitter @flargh

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There are 31 comments. Add yours.

philips9179 says:

Why would they need to negotiate content deals when they could use the App Store to get around things like that. Plus if they are developing a set top box again, arnt they giving ms the chance to display their xbox one symbol first, if they developed a full blown TV set then we would see the fruit symbol first, and I know which one I would want to see, and it isn't the football/golf ball target, especially with kids running around the place

Derrick4Real says:

I think tvs are not a big seller these days. The last few christmases i've read reports of poor tv sales. I don't think the margins are good either.

philips9179 says:

mm, bloody good point! how did Samsung get on, you always here them being a tech giant?

Derrick4Real says:

Samsung makes a ton of stuff. Here is an example of all the things people forget or don't know that Samsung manufactures:

Home appliances like refrigerators, cooking ranges, microwaves etc., large ships including artic tankers, oil drillers, and cargo ship; shipping equipment, cranes, they operate one of the largest shipbuilding docks in Ningbo, China and Korea; helicopter engines, military artillery, gas turbines, military resupply vehicles, Semiconductors, flash memory, Life insurance, Fire and boat insurance, Genera constuction like skycrapers. They built the "tallest building in the world" the Burj Khalifa http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Burj_Khalifa and the Petronas Twin Towers in Malaysia, Nuclear Power plants, Bridges like the Incheon Bridge in Korea http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Incheon_Grand_Bridge, General IT business infrastructure consulting, And they even have an investment arm that just invests money. Why we were thinking about cell phones Samsung was makeing a $690 billion deal to build the dubai metro rail http://www.arabianbusiness.com/south-korean-builder-says-693m-doha-metro... Oh yeah, and they make phones, laptops, & tablets.

When people in America google Samsung they get tvs and phones and think that's all samsung does. But in reality Samsung is a multinational company that makes just tons of things. They bigger than General Electric based on Revenue. They are only behind mostly about 7 or 8 big oil companies when it comes to revenue.

Bottom line Samsung has its feet in a whole bunch of different ponds. Consider that they sell things like memory and chips. Well all those android phones need chips and memory and they buy that stuff from companies like Samsung. they used to make iphone chips even. Like when all those iphones sold the guys supplying the insides got paid too. For a few phones that was samsung. They were litterally making money either way, if you bought an iphone they sold the chip. If you bought a galaxy they sold the phone. But again they do a ton more than phones. In the states we only get their tvs and phones and stuff.

philips9179 says:

Damn, Quite abit then, enjoyed reading that, cheers!

Derrick4Real says:

You're welcome. Interestingly there's a post on the front page now saying Samsung is rumored to NOT be manufacturing Apple's A8 chip. Now i wasn't paying attention to who makes the Apple chips recently but i assumed that Apple had completely cut ties with Samsung already but from that article it seems Samsung was manufacturing for Apple the A6 and A7 chips. http://www.imore.com/apple-a8-rumors-cite-no-samsung-no-integrated-lte Which is an example of my point that even when iphones sold well it just means Samsung made money manufacturing more chips for iphones. Crazy. All that being said Apple on the other hand makes a handful of products with super high profit margins and makes a killing.

RudolfoRoboto says:

they might know that no other company will be able to rebuild the new apple tv in half a year. it will be disruptive. and hopefully we need no other 'tv'. only apple tv....

Obsidian71 says:

Again

There will be two Apple TV. A slightly refreshed model at the same $99 price point. Apple will take the wraps off of the next model early for good reason.

1. For an App Store to work there has to be a SDK and developer support. No iOS devices run a 1920x1080 display and they require touch input. That's not going to fly with a gaming Apple TV.

2. It will support UHD/4K HEVC which means waiting for the chipset to be produced in volume.

3. Content deals, plus integrating the assets acquired from Matcha take time.

Perhaps the biggest mistake is assuming that this device is not going to be ambitious. Rather than simply seeing it as the next generation of Apple TV or a Roku device we should be looking at it like the 1st generation of a multi-purpose box that will probably eventually control vital parts of our home. I wouldn't be surprised to see this box end up with Home Automation aspirations.

Derrick4Real says:

What's the source of this information?

Derrick4Real says:

lol. Ok. You say it as if it's a foregone conclusion. "Again." like nobody was listening. Ok. Well thanks gut.

Obsidian71 says:

Anything worth saying is worth saying it with conviction right? I hope i'm right for the most part but i'm putting it all out there. Cheers

Ron Miller 85763 says:

The delay does not make sense at all. I can see one of two things. Maybe the new Apple TV will be released in April, but the Cable deals won't be ready until later this year. Or ... maybe Apple is really planning on releasing an actual TV as well which could be released in the fall. Most likely, the reporter just doesn't know what they are talking about.

captobie says:

Of course Apple is working on a new Apple TV? Can we use this same logic to say that of course Apple is working on a new iPod Touch or iPod Classic?

heberman says:

Maybe it's like a Tivo - local antenna inputs and DVR, plus all of the current AppleTV features.

ryandobson says:

The delay makes sense IF they need to provide tools or APIs to partners in advance of it’s release. Think: 3rd party Apps, 3rd party hardware (MFI controllers? network tuners/DVRs?), 3rd party content.

Honestly, I’m just hoping to see iTunes Extras finally supported. The rest is gravy.

ChrisFricke says:

Why would the delay matter? Most of the people buying the Apple TV would have little/no knowledge of the product announcement and would buy whatever is on the shelf. Apple can announce whatever they want whenever they want and they'd still sell millions of units - just maybe not millions of the latest and greatest.

dreyfus2 says:

Well, when they first announced the App Store and development tools for iOS it was also well in advance.

If you think of Apple TV as a third platform (which it really is), a similar time to market could make sense, even without content deals being an issue.

OS X: Keyboard + Pointing Device
iOS: Touch (and basic keyboard support)
TV: Voice? Gestures? Mind Reading? Well, maybe not, but certainly not THAT remote

I was always curious why people automatically assumed iOS will run on the TV. There is no touch here. Touch is as wrong as a mouse is wrong. When Jobs told Isaacson that he finally figured the TV out, he certainly did not talk about content deals. He talked about the user experience.

I expect a new OS with new input paradigms and new developer tools. Whatever time will be needed to develop for those will be ahead of the targeted shipping date. If all Apple wanted to do was bring iOS to a bigger screen, they could have done that years ago.

SockRolid says:

"But a half-year delay?"

Two possible reasons for such a long lead time:
1. Time to sign up other content providers in addition to Time Warner, and
2. Time to give (a select few) developers advance warning before and after WWDC 2014.

Apple would be able to point to their (presumed) Time Warner deal and leverage that in negotiations with other content providers. "Do you want to miss out on holiday season movie and TV show rentals and purchases? No? Then sign up with us. Time Warner did."

Also, there just might be some technical changes to the way Apple TV works, and those changes just might require iOS 8 features. The current Apple TV "app-within-another-app" technology is hacky-weird, totally unlike the way normal apps work, and simply doesn't work with the current App Store system. Maybe iOS 8 will fix some or all of that. Maybe not. Either way, iOS 8 won't be officially released to devs until WWDC '14 and it won't be released to the public until about the time that the next iPhone is rolled out.

And I'd be extremely surprised if Apple opens up Apple TV to just any dev with any random app. I think they'll cherry-pick the best content providers and either ask them to up their app development game or write an app for them. Just to ensure the best quality and to keep things lined up perfectly with whatever their long-term TV strategy is. It's all about the long game here. No false starts (e.g. Google TV, Web TV, Macintosh TV, ad nauseam.)

[Come to think of it, maybe Apple will never integrate Apple TV into any kind of App Store, whether or not it's a content store or a software-app store. Purchases could all be handled through iTunes, exactly the same way as all those future retail purchases enabled by iBeacons / Touch ID...]

teepeeayy says:

This makes sense. TWC was offered a buy out by Charter, so Apple had to figure something could be up. Waiting now gives the Crapcast/TWC thing time to play out (regulatory concerns, I'm sure) and to work with other providers. Look how long iTunes Radio took while those negotiations took place.

Becjr says:

70 years ago, the answer to this mystery would've been so obvious...
Gremlins.

Sent from the iMore App

asuperstarr says:

There is strategy behind anything that apple plans. So there is good reason if that is the plan. As mentioned by Tim Cooke numerous times, Apple will release when the product is right. So they may just announce to get biz and the word out earlier, so they don't have to include with other keynotes later.

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allthingspixel says:

Timing of this news and news that Comcast is purchasing Time Warner is interesting to me. Whatever agreement Apple may have had with Time Warner may go back to the drawing board.

Sent from the iMore App

Michael Antkowiak says:

I got one anagram for you to help explain the delay:

SDK

moroboshi says:

Not really. Apple will have given the SDK to plenty of trusted devs well before release to ensure that they can launch with a good app selection.

Obsidian71 says:

Trusted devs may get the SDK prior to WWDC but Michael is correct. The most logical reasoning for a delayed launch is an SDK. Tim Cook himself said new platforms are coming. The Apple TV needs to be as open as possible. The idea isn't to launch with a good app selection but rather a "great" one. That's going to take time.

Art Tabb says:

All of the geek-talk ruins this conversation. Stay at the user-level, folks. Comcast buying Time-Warner changes everything. The industry needs a whole new paradigm, and Apple has the money to force it. Why have multi-screens when most viewing options require a cable subscription? We need to take back the entire entertainment industry to the consumer level, and that's why we need Apple.

This is where we need to go with this conversation, not arcane subjects like SDKs and app-crap.

Obsidian71 says:

But the SDK and apps are more important than a TWC deal. Where I live I don't even get Time Warner so it means absolutely nothing to me what Apple and TWC are working on. What I want is simple. A powerful and extensible STB device that plays media content, games and maybe a bit of home control. What I don't need is some faux features that require an bulky power hungry box. I'm cutting the chord in the next 24 months. I'm done with paying $350 for Cable/Internet/Cellular service.

Art Tabb says:

That's my whole point. If we get rid of the cable provider-app connection, we are on our way.

You wouldn't need Time Warner or any other cable subscription where you live.

danham says:

Peter, I think you nailed it when you noted how the user interface is the cable companies' worst feature (well, if you charitably ignore customer service and monopoly pricing). It strikes me as unlikely that even Apple has the clout to bypass ComWarnercast at this point, so my guess is a joint venture.

So if there's a delay, it could be due to protracted negotiations with cable companies to allow a new ATV to bypass and replace existing cable boxes.

The benefits would include a faster, cleaner way to control your TV no matter what the source of content. The sticking point in that would be how much Apple would have to pay to make up for lost box rental revenue and perhaps some technical details about subscriber authentication.