Apple’s next Apple TV might not look much like the existing models if a new report from Bloomberg is accurate. The publication says that Apple is working on a new device that will combine the functionality of a streaming media device and a smart speaker. It will also be equipped with a webcam.
The company is working on a product that would combine an Apple TV set-top box with a HomePod speaker and include a camera for videoconferencing through a connected TV and other smart-home functions, according to people familiar with the matter, who asked not to be identified discussing internal matters. — Bloomberg
Such a device wouldn’t be the first to combine streaming media functions with a smart speaker — Amazon’s Fire TV Cube already does this, letting users control their entire home theater system using hands-free voice commands. However, no company so far has integrated a webcam into such a device.
If Apple is indeed working on such a gadget, it could end up resembling the Facebook Portal or the Mecool Now, both of which are designed to perch on top of a TV, where the integrated webcam has the best view of the room.
From Apple’s perspective, a beefed-up Apple TV with these additional capabilities would make a lot of sense. Apple recently discontinued its HomePod smart speaker, choosing to focus instead on its much more affordable HomePod mini. Curiously, as Bloomberg notes, Apple combined its HomePod and Apple TV engineering groups in 2020 and unified the underlying software that runs on both devices.
The HomePod mini can already be used as a pseudo-soundbar substitute by pairing one or more of the speakers with an Apple TV. Given the massive increase in popularity of video-calling services, including Apple’s own FaceTime, a single device that can merge these features could find itself a fairly sizable audience.
The question would then be if Apple would allow third-party video-calling apps like Zoom, Google Duo, or Skype on the platform, or keep the device strictly for FaceTime.
Price will also be key to success of a new Apple TV. At $180 or $200 depending on the configuration, the current Apple TV 4K is among the most expensive media streaming devices you can buy. Most competitors, like the Chromecast with Google TV, sit around the $50 mark and come with a very similar set of features.
It’s hard to see how Apple could charge any less than $180 if it integrates a speaker and a webcam, which might make buyers hesitant.
Apple’s next announced event is WWDC 2021, which takes place virtually in June. If Apple were to announce the existence of new Apple TV, WWDC would be a logical opportunity to do so.