Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) has more or less neglected its Apple TV hardware.
The company has not updated its streaming box in around three years, which diverges from the once-a-year cycle it keeps for most of its products, despite Apple TV's relative success it has languished.
A major update was expected at the company's Worldwide Developers Conference in June, but nothing was announced. That silence has built expectations although Apple has been eerily silent on the product.
Still, rumors have been flying and now all signs point to a major revamp of the set-top box being announced in September.
The hardware will be improved
While there's nothing wrong with the current Apple TV hardware and it compares favorably to other streaming boxes on the market, it needs a refresh to pull ahead of the other players in the field. The company had planned to announce some significant changes to the platform at WWDC but pulled back according to Buzzfeed, which shared details of the specs for the improved device,
Expect a refreshed and slimmer chassis and new innards; Apple's A8 system on chip; a new remote that sources say has been "drastically improved" by a touch-pad input; an increase in on-board storage; and an improved operating system that will support Siri voice control.
The addition of Siri is long overdue as Amazon.com's (NASDAQ:AMZN) Fire TV has a very useful voice search. Adding Apple's voice assistant to its platform while also tricking out the remote may differentiate the streaming box from its leading rival.
An app store is coming
One of the more frustrating things about the current Apple TV is that it's a closed platform. Users get the apps that come installed with it and that's all. That has always seemed like an odd choice from the company that popularized the concept of third-party apps on its iPhone platform.
Buzzfeed reported that this will finally be changed with the upcoming update.
Crucially, the new Apple TV will debut alongside a long-awaited App Store and the software development kit developers need to populate it.
An apps store makes Apple TV a lot more useful and it puts the platform on par with Amazon and Roku's streaming boxes. It also allows some of the developers who create apps for iPhone and iPad over to Apple TV.
That could bring a flood of games, productivity apps, and other useful programs to Apple TV making it a much more useful product.
Streaming TV eventually
While it's clear that Apple is working on putting together a live television subscription streaming service it's not clear if it will be ready for September. The challenge is getting rights from various networks to transmit their channels. That's not an easy problem to solve because the idea of streaming television, which does not require a cable subscription, challenges the current model of pay TV.
Apple should ultimately solve this issue as there are currently two pure-digital cable-like streaming services on the market, but it may take time. By sheer virtue of its size and success Apple loses leverage when talking with television networks.
A streaming TV service will come eventually. That's simply the direction the industry is moving in and Apple should eventually be able to make the deals it needs, but it most likely won't launch in September alongside the new hardware.
It's about time
The most amazing thing here is that Apple waited this long. Apple TV has been a success -- maybe not a runaway hit -- but CEO Tim Cook has acknowledged that it's a $1 billion business.
"It's a little more difficult to call it a hobby these days," Cook said of Apple TV in 2014, when he announced that in 2013 it had passed that sales mark, according to Time.
At that time -- nearly 18 months ago -- the news magazine also reported that a revamp of the box was imminent. That, of course, did not happen, but now it seems like the long wait is over.
It's peculiar that improving Apple TV took so long, but the revamp looks like it may be worth the long wait. The question is whether the company waited too long and ceded some of its audience to other players in the field.