While we’re waiting for a new Apple TV to arrive with a faster processor and better remote, Apple may have way bigger plans for its set-top box. According to a report from Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman, the next Apple TV might be a whole lot more than a digital streaming box.
Details are scarce, but Gurman says Apple “is working on a product that would combine an Apple TV set-top box with a HomePod speaker and include a camera for video conferencing through a connected TV and other smart-home functions.” The current Apple TV has no speaker, microphone, or camera, so the change would represent a massive shift for the device, which started in 2007 as a “hobby.”
A camera and a speaker would instantly turn the Apple TV into a Google Nest Hub and Amazon Echo Show competitor while giving Apple a much better position in the smart home race. After discontinuing the original HomePod earlier this year, Apple’s only smart home device is the $99 HomePod mini, which offers Siri capabilities and music playback.
Gurman also says Apple is working on a device that connects to an iPad with an iMac G4-like robotic arm that “can move to follow a user around a room.” Both Amazon newest Echo Show and the Facebook Portal featuring a camera that tracks users as they move.
However, it’s not clear what an Apple TV with a camera would look like. As it stands, it’s a device that isn’t generally positioned in a way that would make it natural to use a camera, so adding video capabilities would fundamentally transform the way it’s used, even if it didn’t have a built-in screen. Gurman doesn’t give a timetable for a possible release of the new devices, but given that they’re in “early development,” they’re likely at least a year or more away.
Michael Simon has been covering Apple since the iPod was the iWalk. His obsession with technology goes back to his first PC—the IBM Thinkpad with the lift-up keyboard for swapping out the drive. He’s still waiting for that to come back in style tbh.