Earlier this week we told you that Apple was reportedly working on an in-home device to compete with Amazon’s Echo, and Google’s just introduced Home device. A report today from VentureBeat indicates the new device could actually be a fifth-generation Apple TV.
The company will build on its enhancements to the Apple TV announced last year, which brought the Siri virtual assistant to the set-top box. A new version of the Apple TV will solve problems with the existing box and remote control, a source familiar with the matter claims.
“They want Apple TV to be just the hub of everything,” the source told VentureBeat.
For the three readers who don’t know about the Amazon Echo, it’s an in-home personal assistant device, which resembles a black Pringles can. It sports a built-in speaker and microphone, and the Internet-connected device also boasts a very intelligent AI, in the form of “Alexa.” Users ask Alexa for information, such as news reports, weather & traffic conditions, and more. Echo can also control compatible smart home devices.
Apple released an improved Apple TV set top box last fall, adding Siri voice control, an App Store, improved processor, more RAM, and additional on-board storage. Any possible Echo competitor would also need to include a built-in mic and speaker.
However, one major drawback to an Apple TV-based Echo competitor would be its hard wired connection to a television set. That would eliminate one very attractive feature of the Echo, the ability to put it anywhere in the house. We’ll see.
VentureBeat’s report doesn’t indicate when a next-generation Apple TV might see the light of day, but a late 2016 release date could be feasible. A number of rumors have floated about concerning an improved version of Siri, Apple’s personal assistant found on iOS devices and the Apple Watch, which would include a robust developer SDK to allow developers to build Siri support into their apps. Such an improvement would likely be welcome for any Echo competitor that Apple may be planning.