Apple TV drops to fourth place behind Amazon's Fire TV

Sales of the Apple TV, which hasn't had a significant update in three years, drop behind streaming-TV box players Roku, Google and -- for the first time -- Amazon.

A new Apple TV may be in the offing -- and just in time.

Last year's US sales of the company's streaming-media box slipped behind those for Amazon's rival devices for the first time, according to estimates Thursday from researcher Parks Associates. That put it in fourth place, also behind streaming-TV box maker Roku and online search giant Google.

The popularity of streaming-media boxes has grown as more people watch Internet-delivered entertainment on their TVs. But amid the boon in demand, Apple's box has sat on the sidelines in the company's lineup, going more than three years without a new model. The company is expected to unveil a new version of Apple TV next month as it reveals its new models of the iPhone.

Apple is expected to reveal a new version of its Apple TV next month, after the device has gone three years without an overhaul. CNET

Amazon overtook Apple for third place, rising to 16 percent of 2014's US purchases, compared to Apple's 13 percent share, according to Parks.

Roku, which sells a variety of boxes and sticks that connect to your TV, continued to lead sales in the US, commanding 34 percent of devices sold. Google, which is the maker of the Chromecast thumb-size device that plugs into the back of a TV, was second with 23 percent.

Overall, those four companies controlled 86 percent of the market for streaming-media boxes last year. The researcher also estimated that 86 million streaming-media devices will be sold globally in 2019.

Apple TV is still a big seller worldwide. In the device's lifetime, Apple has sold 25 million of them, according to Chief Executive Tim Cook in March, by far the highest adoption of any such device cumulatively. It compares with Roku's 10 million total sold, according to the company last year. Neither Google nor Amazon have released stats for the Chromecast or Amazon Fire TV and Fire TV stick.

Apple declined to comment.

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