Opinion: High Hopes and Realistic Expectations of Apple TV

Apple is preparing an announcement tomorrow, and speculation is high that it will finally take video games seriously. A long-time Apple investor, Asif Khan explains why a more moderate move is likely.

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Apple is holding a special event tomorrow in San Francisco. As a longtime Apple shareholder--17 years and counting-- I usually don't get too excited about these events. If my expectations rise, I tend to end up disappointed. The company's recent moves in acquisitions could signal any number of massive changes to its business, from Apple TV incorporating gaming to more pie-in-the-sky hopes. While hopes are high, I'd like to keep my feet planted firmly on the ground with more reasonable hopes.

To the credit of the various rumors, Apple has made quite a few acquisitions that could be applied to gaming. Apple acquired PrimeSense in 2013 for somewhere between $300 and $400 million. This is the company that provided technology for the first iteration of Xbox's Kinect motion sensor device. The company has yet to use any PrimeSense technology in their devices, but it seems like they have been waiting for all the right parts to fall into place. At the very least, this is an interesting nugget for us to hold onto as I make the case for Apple creating a living room entrant in the gaming space.

Apple acquired augmented reality firm Metaio in May of this year. We have seen early examples of augmented reality being brought into gaming with PS4 and their camera as well as Nintendo and the 3DS. It remains to be seen if Apple is interested in using augmented reality in the iPhone, Apple TV, or the whole ecosystem. Let us consider this yet another nugget in our case for an Apple TV with gaming capabilities. 
Outside of the many acquisitions made by Apple Inc., there is further evidence that Apple plans on taking gaming more seriously. The company has filed two patents related to game controllers over the last three years. The first, for controlling portable devices with a controller. The second, for a snap on game controller for touch-screen devices. The company has also filed a patent for 3-dimensional user interface session control.

During the courtroom bickering between Samsung and Apple regarding patents, an email from Steve Jobs was uncovered where he referred to a human interface device for Apple TV called the "Magic Wand." Such a device could work in conjunction with the above mentioned patents to create a user interface that is truly new to the set top box product category. 

A few more patents from Apple suggest the company has been experimenting with projection. One is for a 3D mapping laser beam projector system and yet another for a glasses-free 3D projector display. There are a lot of patents that I could continue to go through in and around the gaming space (including Apple patenting a Beats branded gaming headset).

Any of that could come into play tomorrow. But it probably won't.

I would love for Apple to reinvent how we interact with our televisions the way that they did with tablets in 2010, smartphones in 2007, portable music players in 2001, and personal computers in 1984. I believe very strongly that this can be accomplished if the company is ready to combine the above patents along with an a la carte television subscription service that has been rumored for awhile. Who wouldn't want a glasses-free 3D projector that works with a range of human interface devices as well as a button-free user interface akin to Kinect? 

However, it seems more likely that Apple is going to release an improved iteration of the Apple TV set top box tomorrow. An introduction of some PrimeSense 3D motion sensor technology, an improved remote control by way of the "Magic Wand," and opening the Apple TV up to developers via an App Store would probably be sufficient for this year. The company recently opened up a dedicated Twitter account for App Store Games, and apparently is finally taking games more seriously. There is an outside chance that if Apple does announce App Store support for Apple TV that they could get a big developer on stage. Nintendo's recent entrance into developing for iOS definitely leaves a slight crack in the door for an OMG moment where Miyamoto or Reggie are on stage to announce Nintendo's support. Then again, that might be too much for this Apple and Nintendo fanboy to handle.

Tomorrow Apple will show us the next generation of iPhones and potentially some upgrades to the MacBook Pro and iPad lineups, but it is my hope that they have "one more thing" in the living room for gamers. I know that companies file patents for all sorts of things that never see the light of day, but I hold out hope that Apple still has a few disruptive products left in its pipeline. This hope could very well lead to disappointment tomorrow if Apple chooses to do a less impressive refresh of the Apple TV product.


Asif Khan, his family and his company Virtue LLC owned shares of Apple at the time of this article.

CEO

Asif Khan is the CEO and majority shareholder of Shacknews. He began his career in video game journalism as a freelancer in 2001 for Tendobox.com. Asif is a CPA and was formerly an investment adviser representative. After much success in his own personal investments, he retired from his day job in financial services and is currently focused on new private investments. His favorite PC game of all time is Duke Nukem 3D, and he is an unapologetic fan of most things Nintendo. Asif first frequented the Shack when it was sCary's Shugashack to find all things Quake. When he is not immersed in investments or gaming he is a purveyor of fine electronic music. Asif also has an irrational love of Cleveland sports.

From The Chatty
  • reply
    September 8, 2015 1:45 PM

    Asif Khan posted a new article, Opinion: High Hopes and Realistic Expectations of Apple TV

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      September 8, 2015 1:57 PM

      Whatever it is, I'm buying it. Most of what we watch now is from iTunes, and having a trackpad in the living room to use an HTPC is starting to suck. I've just been putting it off because their refresh had been rumored for so long.

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      September 8, 2015 2:00 PM

      It's definitely interesting to see the acquisitions and patents. Part of me doubts it has much to do with gaming, but I also can't quite see the more static entertainment angle for such technologies. *shrugs*

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        September 8, 2015 2:29 PM

        I think Augmented Reality can be applied to phone operating systems for indoor mapping. For example, you walk into a store and type milk and hold up your phone with an AR map of where the milk is. This could be helpful in a number of pedestrian mapping solutions.

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          September 8, 2015 2:34 PM

          That's a cool idea.

          Lowe's has an app that shows you on a simple 2D overhead map where everything is in the store. It works great (when it actually works lulz), better than the 63.5% shot at getting a brain-dead employee to help you find something like the 17 year old kid who though fish tape was a type of tape durrrr. AR seems a bit overkill, but I guess it could help.

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            September 8, 2015 2:37 PM

            When it comes to PrimeSense patents, I don't see how they aren't going to introduce a user interface that could be applied to gaming.

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      September 8, 2015 2:25 PM

      I may get one if I can get Plex. I have no clue if I can do this now.

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      September 8, 2015 2:28 PM

      If it had as many channel options as Roku I might be tempted, but at this point I'm pretty satisfied.

      I wonder what kind of games would both run well on an apple tv and would be fun to play on a big screen?

      Small typo in the last paragraph (company's companies).

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        September 8, 2015 2:32 PM

        Yea, sorry about that typo. Fixing it soon :)

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          September 8, 2015 2:44 PM

          I'm totally not mad, I just wanted to point it out while trying not to sound like a grammar nazi. I never know if people want that kind of feedback or not.

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      September 8, 2015 2:38 PM

      Tim Cook could take a dump and Apple fans will eat it up.

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      September 8, 2015 3:28 PM

      Always enjoy reading your stuff Asif.

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      September 8, 2015 4:32 PM

      Asif, I also want another press conference where I'm blown away by something unimaginable. I love those moments, and it's fun when there is hype surrounding new technologies!

      - Not jaded yet

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        September 8, 2015 4:38 PM

        For Apple, it would probably have to either be a software thing or something that is not yet being manufactured, because otherwise it will have leaked

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          September 8, 2015 4:49 PM

          What about a pill you take daily that gets rid of the need to take shits. Your asshole would be so clean you can start storing stuff in there like a kangaroo, car keys, loose change, phone charger, etc.

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          September 9, 2015 1:22 AM

          All that's a surprise is software. Swift was a really big thing but that isn't user facing at all.

          Keeping hardware a surprise is much tougher. There are too many leaks along the supply chain and almost everything is a predictable iteration anyway.

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        September 8, 2015 4:50 PM

        Last time that happened for me was the first iPhone.

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          September 8, 2015 5:43 PM

          Same here. I don't predict it happening again with them.

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            September 8, 2015 8:25 PM

            The last oh shit product I have witnessed was the Tesla Model S when it was in beta. It wasn't even a press conference, just actually sitting in it in the store.

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      September 8, 2015 4:39 PM

      If it doesn't paint holograms in my eyes with lasers I will be ultra pissed off and I'll post some very damning rants to tumblr.

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      September 8, 2015 4:43 PM

      The leaks are pointing to a motion-controlled Siri-controlled touchpad remote. They'll probably do some Siri Homekit voice commands, some voice controlled iTunes searches, show off some games that are relatively graphically intensive for mobile hardware, play some Wii-sports-esque game, maybe Angry Birds with a waggle wand, and maybe unveil their $30-$50 TV service. I hope that Siri can search into Netflix and Hulu's catalogs, something that the Amazon Fire TV promised but never delivered.

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        September 8, 2015 5:18 PM

        I haven't really stewed on this much but it occurs to me - they already make a bunch of touchscreen devices that have Siri. Why wouldn't they just say use your iPhone? Unless the new remote has physical buttons. Or is aimed at the don't-have-an-iphone crowd.

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          September 8, 2015 5:52 PM

          The leaks say it also has some physical buttons. Hopefully it has Force Touch too

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        September 9, 2015 1:11 AM

        Yeah I think they are going to make whatever the new Apple TV is the cornerstone of their Homekit IoT push. Something like an Amazon Echo that also controls your home, probably powered by Siri and IBM's Watson.

        As long as we get an AppStore for Apple TV, I'm happy.

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          September 9, 2015 1:14 AM

          Also when tech media keep quoting Jobs on "cracking" TV a lot of them think he meant an actual TV or TV content instead of *interaction* with a TV.

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            September 9, 2015 4:45 AM

            Maybe. There was a report that Apple was going to get into original content just like Netflix, Amazon, etc,and wanted to get Top Gear. Or maybe he meant voice interaction with Siri. It doesn't feel like their supposed upcoming TV service with local channels is all that interesting.

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      September 8, 2015 6:21 PM

      I really hope there's no Kinect, motion controllers or talking to my TV at all. Fuck all of that garbage, none of it works realiabbly.

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      September 8, 2015 8:32 PM

      Good article.

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      September 9, 2015 1:03 AM

      Asif, you are asking to be disappointed.

      I believe they could do right where Microsoft did wrong with the Kinect but for regular interaction with TVs in general and not for necessarily for gaming. With them securing more content providers and getting into producing their own content I believe they are making an effort to make TV more interactive. More in the style of game shows (100 vs 1) rather than traditional video games. Anyway, my crazy pie-in-the-sky prediction.

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        September 9, 2015 1:23 AM

        I miss 1 vs 100 :(

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          September 9, 2015 1:35 AM

          You and me both. It was the best thing Microsoft ever did with XBL.

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          September 9, 2015 7:03 AM

          If the new Apple TV had a game similar to that I would jump on it. Hell if they got the Jackbox guys onto the platform I think that would be huge. Those games on tons of fun to play with groups at a party.

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          September 9, 2015 7:46 AM

          That was a great show.

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      September 9, 2015 7:50 AM

      My big hope would be 4K support. With 4K becoming more and more mainstream, it would be great to have a system that natively supports it. Sure, my Samsung has their Netflix/Amazon apps with 4K support, but quite frankly, the apps suck. And Apple has been embracing larger resolution displays for a while now. I know the odds are against this happening due to pricing considerations, but if it comes with 4K AND an App Store, I'm buying it day one.