Yesterday was the start of WWDC, Apple’s annual developer conference, where they revealed some new features coming to the Apple TV. It was also the start of E3, the big gaming conference where Microsoft talked about the Xbox’s future and Sony talked about the PlayStation’s future. Here’s a summary of the announcements related to streaming media.
Unlike Google, Apple actually spent several minutes talking about their streaming media TV platform, tvOS, during their keynote yesterday. For starters, Apple revealed that the Apple TV now has over 6,000 apps and 1,300 video channels. For comparison, the Fire TV is currently at just over 4,800 apps. While individual quality apps are far more important than the sheer quantity of apps, the speed at which the Apple TV gained so many apps is a testament to the popularity of the Apple App Store. Apple also announced that Sling TV is now available on the Apple TV, and they’ve updated their app policy to no longer require support for the Siri remote in games.
Most of the new features coming to the Apple TV revolved around Siri, Apple’s voice assistant. Siri on the Apple TV can now search for content by category. The example given on stage during the presentation was a search for “high school comedies from the ’80s.” Siri can also now search YouTube videos and jump you directly into an app’s live stream by saying “watch” plus the app’s name.
As for non-Siri features, Apple is releasing an update to their Apple TV remote app which now replicates all the functionality of the Siri remote, just like the Fire TV Remote App replicates all the functionality of the Fire TV voice remote. Unfortunately, the app is still only available for iOS devices. Apple also revealed a feature they’re calling “Single Sign-on” which lets you log into your cable service provider once on the Apple TV, and it will handle activating individual apps for you. Lastly, the Apple TV now has a dark mode which turns the white background on the GUI black.
Unfortunately, Microsoft didn’t announce new Xbox TV hardware like was rumored, but they did reveal the new Xbox One S console. The new console is 40% smaller than the existing Xbox One, but more importantly, it now supports 4K Ultra HD and HDR video. The Xbox has always been a popular streaming media device, and now it will likely be able to stream 4K and HDR videos from Netflix and Amazon Video. In addition to streaming 4K, the Xbox One S comes with an optical drive capable of playing 4K Ultra HD Blu-rays, making it a very well rounded media player. Microsoft also revealed Project Scorpio, a new Xbox they expect to launch in time for the holidays next year that will have the power to run games at 4K resolution and will have some virtual reality component. The Xbox One S will start at $299 and be available in August.
Sony really only focused on gaming during their presentation yesterday. The only thing remotely related to media is the announcement that Playstation VR, Sony’s virtual reality headset, will be released on October 13 for $399. It will of course require a PlayStation 4, but will also require the PlayStation Camera. A bundle that includes the VR headset, camera, and two PlayStation Move motion controllers will be available for $499. With so many large companies, including Amazon, putting effort into VR, it’ll likely be a part of many media viewing experiences moving forward. Sony could leverage Sony Pictures, their movie and television production unit, to be the first company to offer virtual reality content outside of games.