While the ever-active Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) rumor mill hasn't pointed to any meaningful signs of a physical television from Apple this year, there are consistent signals that the company is planning to completely revamp its Apple TV set-top box in 2014. Apple CEO Tim Cook even said at a Feb. 28 annual shareholders meeting that it no longer considers the Apple TV business a hobby, suggesting the company plans to invest far more energy into the project form now on. What kind of changes can investors expect to be made to the Apple TV?
Camera-less no longer?
Recent camera-related job postings on Apple's website discovered by AppleInsider include the Apple TV as one of the products listed in the job description that the hired engineer could be work on. While it's possible that the list of products is standard in many job postings, some of the camera-related jobs do not include the Apple TV, suggesting that it may have been included in the list of products purposefully.
But the biggest evidence that Apple may be planning to include a camera in the Apple TV is the company's 2013 acquisition of PrimeSense, the maker of 3D sensor responsible for the motion-sensing technology in Microsoft's first-generation Kinect.
A February report from the Financial Times said that the new Apple TV would include support for games. Including games could position a new Apple TV set-top box as a competitor to existing game consoles, expanding the device's addressable market.
An App Store?
Financial Times also said in the same report that the Apple TV will finally gain an App Store. While the company currently has third-party apps on the device, there is no store for users to choose additional apps. Further, developers are hand selected and currently have no software development kit to create their own apps. A move to include an App Store on the Apple TV would undoubtedly give the device a more prominent role in Apple's ecosystem.
While we don't know exactly what features the Apple TV will include, investors can now at least be certain the company is taking the project far more seriously. No longer considered a hobby for Apple, considerable new features will undoubtedly surface.
Apple's greater commitment to Apple TV is excellent news for Apple investors. Sure, Apple TV is a small business for the company; accounting for less than 1% of Apple's revenue, according to Cook's comment at the annual shareholder meeting that the segment brought in $1 billion in revenue in 2013, the product segment likely won't be meaningfully budging Apple's financials in the short-term. But it is a fast growing business that could have a longer-term impact on the business. Apple analyst Horace Dediu estimatesthat the Apple TV business is growing at about 80%, year over year -- that's faster growth than any other Apple segment.