Don't expect major Apple TV news at Monday's Apple Watch event

As usual before a big Apple event, there are plenty of rumors and speculation about whether or how the venerable Apple TV set-top box will get an update. But Apple may not even mention it at all.

David Katzmaier Editorial Director -- Personal Tech
David reviews TVs and leads the Personal Tech team at CNET, covering mobile, software, computing, streaming and home entertainment. We provide helpful, expert reviews, advice and videos on what gadget or service to buy and how to get the most out of it.
Expertise A 20-year CNET veteran, David has been reviewing TVs since the days of CRT, rear-projection and plasma. Prior to CNET he worked at Sound & Vision magazine and eTown.com. He is known to two people on Twitter as the Cormac McCarthy of consumer electronics. Credentials
  • Although still awaiting his Oscar for Best Picture Reviewer, David does hold certifications from the Imaging Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Standards and Technology on display calibration and evaluation.
David Katzmaier
4 min read

Will Apple's hobby get time in the spotlight Monday? All signs point to "No." Sarah Tew/CNET

Apple is expected to talk about plenty of new tech Monday at its ""="" shortcode="link" asset-type="article" uuid="b2dbe327-aba8-4f57-b92f-cc7726899664" slug="apple-invites-press-to-march-9-spring-forward-event" link-text="" section="news" title="Apple Watch time? Company sets March 9 'spring forward' event" edition="us" data-key="link_bulk_key"> event, but the good ol' Apple TV probably won't get mention one.

There will likely be an hour or more on the Apple Watch, and maybe other shiny Apple things, with a new 12-inch MacBook Air seeming to be the most likely secondary news.

So why won't Apple devote any time to the little box whose current version started shipping three years ago? The one that's long overdue for a refresh?

Aside from rumors pointing to "later in 2015," and the fact that a new Apple living room box may not be the greatest fit at an event aimed primarily at your wrist, there's the precedent of recent Apple events.

Tune into CNET's Apple event live show and blog at 9 a.m. PT on March 9.

Last fall's iPhone 6 launch spent two hours on the phones, Apple Pay and a preview of the Apple Watch, but left out a lot of other stuff...including Apple TV. The story has been the same at Apple events since the Apple TV was launched in March 2012: lots of updated phones, iPads, computers and software, but precious little on Apple TV.

I believe this event will follow suit. The effort required to sell people on a whole new product category for Apple -- the smartwatch -- leaves little room for a new living-room TV box. It many not even squeak into the opening remarks, when Apple CEO Tim Cook tends to give a broader recap of the state of Apple's various businesses.

But what if...

Of course, we've been wrong before. And just in case Apple does actually talk about Apple TV at its watch event, here's what the company could say.

Alternatively, you can look at this list as our best guess for what Apple might eventually announce for the living room product category, whenever it deigns to do so. (And yes -- that hardware will get a refresh eventually.)

Video screenshot by Bonnie Burton/CNET

HBO Now: It's been widely reported that Apple is in talks with HBO to be among the first with HBO Now, the no-cable-subscription-required version of HBO Go said to cost $15 monthly and launch in time for the "Game of Thrones" Season 5 premiere April 12. It makes sense that HBO Now will appear as an Apple TV app, which may merit mention Monday. Maybe.

David KatzmaIer/CNET

Sling TV-like streaming service: Speaking of talks with TV content providers, Apple's own over-the-top streaming service has been rumored seemingly forever. When it finally launches it would likely compete with cable TV, Sling TV and the upcoming PlayStation Vue by bundling a selection of traditional cable channels in app form.

Perhaps Apple CEO Tim Cook will announce the service minutes after another glossy Apple Watch video. Yeah, right. TV remains ""="" shortcode="link" asset-type="article" uuid="81b1064e-1e23-47cf-a395-8598b94c5a2b" slug="apple-has-its-best-product-lineup-in-25-years-says-itunes-head-cue" link-text="" section="news" title="Best Apple product lineup in years, says Eddy Cue" edition="us" data-key="link_bulk_key" api="{"id":"81b1064e-1e23-47cf-a395-8598b94c5a2b","slug":"apple-has-its-best-product-lineup-in-25-years-says-itunes-head-cue","contentType":null,"edition":"us","topic":{"slug":"mobile"},"metaData":{"typeTitle":null,"hubTopicPathString":"Mobile","reviewType":null},"section":"news"}"> and once Apple does, you can bet it will deserve more than "one more thing."

Sarah Tew/CNET

Beats music revamp: The existing Beats music service is said to be getting a revamp and new $7.99 monthly price, but recent rumors peg the announcement at Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) in June, not March. When that happens it will likely replace the current Apple TV Beats app.

Apple HomeKit gadgets of CES 2015

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HomeKit integration: The first products to work with HomeKit, Apple's smart-home platform baked into iOS, were shown at CES and shipping this year. We also learned that an Apple TV will be required if you want to tell Siri to turn on your lights away from home. Maybe we'll get more details as part of the Apple Watch event, but more likely they too will wait until WWDC.

Universal search (with or without Siri): Roku, Amazon Fire TV, TiVo and even Xbox have great cross-platform search functions, which allow users to look for titles, actors and other keywords across the multitude of services to which they're subscribed. Wouldn't that be great on Apple TV? Being able to ask Siri via your iPhone's mic--or a microphone built into the remote, a la Fire TV --to search for stuff on Apple TV would be even greater.

Games and an app store: An even more drastic software overhaul would bring the oft-wished-for access to the App Store firehose, complete with lots of casual games and official controller support. But I'm thinking such a big, worthwhile change would necessitate...

Sarah Tew

A new 4K Apple TV box: The least likely scenario on Monday -- well, aside from an actual TV, or pigs flying -- is an announcement of new Apple TV hardware. I'm guessing that when Apple bows a real, updated piece of hardware it will cost $199 and do 4K.

I hope the company justifies the extra outlay with all the fixins: all of the above plus 4K streaming capability (4K iTunes, anyone?), a camera for living-room Facetime (with optical zoom, please?) and Kinect-esque motion capture, and maybe even a universal remote that works just like the awesome Harmony Home Control but with a better app, motion control and a mic for voice search. A guy can dream, right?

So when will we get a new Apple TV?

I have no idea.

The fact is that Apple has done a great job updating the current box with new apps, to the extent that it's still, after all this time, our second-favorite streaming box after the Roku 3. That device is still ancient in tech terms and could use its own update, but it's still a year newer than the Apple TV.

If I had to place a wager now I'd say Apple will indeed release a new box later this year, once it can accompany ("bundle?") the launch with a new streaming TV service. The Internet TV landscape is changing too quickly, and has too much opportunity for new revenue models for Apple to sit out another year.

That said, the only safe bet is that a new Apple TV has to appear at some point. It's a still question of when, not if.