Apple TV: Despite a lack of updates at WWDC 2015, Apple is hard at work on its digital media player. Here’s why.

Despite a lack of updates at WWDC 2015, Apple is hard at work on its digital media player. Here’s why.

image of Apple Tv interface

So clean, so nice.

It’s easy to forget how awesome an Apple TV is—until a friend or relative watches you use it.

“How do you get your pictures to show up on your TV?“ ”What device are yo using that has such a clean interface? "This control is awesome, so tiny, so few buttons.”

These are but a few of the comments and questions I’ve gotten over the years. But, most of us want our great products to become greater, so I’m sure I speak for many Apple TV users when I say I was disappointed that Apple did not announce any updates for its set-top box at WWDC 2015.

In fact, many Apple watchers, including us, were disappointed after the company’s annual developers conference.

Yes, Apple announced a new OS, a new iOS, a new watchOS, a music streaming service, and more.

screenshot of Apple WWDC2015 logo
Now you see an Apple TV, now you don’t.

But it completely ignored Apple TV—yet again. This despite plenty of experts’ predictions that Apple would release a major Apple TV update that day, including both a new device and a streaming service.

These experts weren’t just expecting Apple to launch a revolutionary product simply because they thought it was about time. Nor were they just inspired by creative interpretations of Apple’s logo for WWDC as having an Apple TV buried in the picture.

The fact that Apple hasn’t released a generational update of Apple TV since 2012 is indication enough that an update must be around the corner.

But that’s just a guess—or a hope. There was actual reliable information, like this statement by Time Warner CEO or this Wall Street Journal article, indicating that an Apple TV announcement was imminent. What’s more, for a long time now there have been reports of negotiations with Hulu, Comedy Central, and Viacom.

(To be fair, as the event got closer, other reliable reports began surfacing, putting the launch of a revamped Apple TV in question.)

So what happened? Were all the giddy experts mistaken? Has Apple really neglected its set-top box? Or did it have to backtrack?

There’s some evidence of the latter scenario. In the same New York Times article it was revealed that Apple had initially aimed to unveil a new set-top box at WWDC 2015—one that would finally allow Apple’s developers to create apps for the television screen, and that was also said to come with an improved remote control, a larger drive and an A8 processor.

However, according to the Times, Apple decided sometime after mid-May that the product was not ready. Whether this was due to technological or design considerations, we may never know. But it’s very likely that Apple simply couldn’t finish negotiations with content owners in time for WWDC 2015, or to accomplish its goal of including live, local broadcast networks on a nationwide scale.

The Steve Jobs effect

image of Steve Jobs with a halo

Some will argue that none of this would have happened under Steve Jobs. After all, writes his biographer Walter Isaacson, Jobs said shortly before dying that he’d finally cracked what an integrated TV set should be like. And let’s not forget that Jobs had a history of making the impossible happen, such as negotiating a good licensing deal with the recording industry. Surely, he could have replicated that feat and gotten cable companies to sign a deal with Apple?

But the fact of the matter is that there’s no point in speculating what would’ve happened (or not) under Jobs. Whether you agree or disagree with Tim Cook’s handling of Apple, it’s highly unlikely that he fails to see how important it would be for the company to take control of your TV set.

Indeed, it would not only be a huge money-making opportunity for Apple; it would also help it take command of your living room, in conjunction with other services like Music and HomeKit. As John Paczkowski wrote on Buzzfeed:

“The new Apple TV isn’t just a play for a stake of the streaming TV market, but for the mythical digital living room. Think TV, music, apps and a little bit of home automation as well.”

More importantly, if things went well, such a revamped Apple TV would position Apple, once again, as the champion who took down a much-maligned industry (that of cable TV), all while helping eliminate any lingering doubt that Apple can’t create revolutionary products without Jobs.

And that, I’m sure, is something that Tim Cook can’t pass on.