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Next-gen Apple TV: What to expect from Apple as it takes over your living room

Published Sep 8th, 2015 3:00PM EDT

Since its inception in 2007, Apple has viewed the Apple TV as nothing more than a hobby. Though the device has sold remarkably well over the years, it always seemed as if Apple wasn’t quite sure how to unleash its full potential and make a bona fide push for control of the living room.

“There’s a lot we can do in this space,” Apple CEO Tim Cook said of the Apple TV on a few occasions. “So we continue to pull the string to see where it leads us.”

Flash forward to 2015 and it appears that the Apple TV’s journey is finally poised to enter new and exciting territory. This coming Wednesday, Apple will take the wraps off a completely revamped Apple TV that may finally signal the devices ascension from mere hobby to a full-fledged and flourishing product line worthy of its own line item on Apple’s balance sheet.

Here’s what we know about Apple’s upcoming Apple TV thus far.

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While the current incarnation of the Apple TV sports a humble A5 processor, the upcoming version will reportedly come equipped with a much more capable and speedier A8 processor, the same one Apple currently uses on the iPhone 6. Now the reason behind the huge jump in processing power can likely be attributed to the Apple TV‘s game changing feature — its own dedicated App Store.

According to a number of rumors over the past few months, the new Apple TV will come with its own SDK and support for a full-fledged App Store. The implications here are monumental. Just as the iPhone helped popularize casual gaming with titles like Doodle Jump and Angry Birds, so too may an App Store enhanced Apple TV convince masses of traditional non-gamers to start playing games and other types of apps on their HDTVs. And given the current quality of iOS games, it’s not far-fetched to envision developers churning out console quality games for the Apple TV. In effect, the Apple TV might very well become a serious rival to the Xbox One and the PS4.

In conjunction with a new App Store, the new Apple TV will reportedly come with a newly designed and touch enabled remote with built-in support for Siri. On top of that, the remote itself will reportedly be able to function as a game controller a’la the Nintendo Wii.

As TechCrunch reported a few weeks ago:

One thing that hasn’t been talked about yet is the fact that the new remote will be motion sensitive, likely including several axis’ worth of sensors that put its control on par with a Nintendo Wii remote.

A game controller with a microphone, physical buttons, a touchpad and motion sensitive controls would be extremely capable. While Apple is likely going to target the broad casual gaming market, I would not be shocked to see innovative gameplay blossom from that type of input possibility. Think, for instance, of multi-player gaming with several people using voice input, or many popular genres of party games that would do far better on the TV than on an iPad or iPhone.

Citing its own sources, 9to5Mac believes that the new Apple TV will also support “more complex, console-style Bluetooth game controllers with the pressure-sensitive buttons and joysticks previously introduced for iPhones, iPads, and iPod touches”

In short, Apple’s revamped Apple TV will represent the company’s biggest push yet to implant itself in the living room of millions of consumers.

Underscoring the economic impact a successful gaming push might have on Apple’s bottom line, The New York Times on Sunday published a report stating that the console game market in 2015 is worth upwards of $27 billion.

All that being said, expect Apple to make gaming a primary selling point behind what we can only imagine will be its strongest Apple TV marketing push to date.

At the same time, Apple’s beloved hockey puck certainly won’t be forgetting its roots as a conduit to media content.

While the Apple TV today has no shortage of content via its ever-growing selection of channels, actually seeking out and finding programs to watch can be something of a chore, and a tedious one at that. As distinct media entities with their own original content continue to grow in size and influence, simply hopping back and forth between different applications can be frustrating and time-consuming.

To address this problem, the upcoming Apple TV will feature a new feature called Universal Search. According to John Paczkowski of Buzzfeed, Universal Search will be positioned as a “cornerstone” feature of Apple’s new set-top box.

“Instead of searching the catalogs of multiple video services one-at-a-time for a particular movie,” Paczkowski writes, “you’ll now be able to search all — or most of them — at once and then choose the service on which you’d like to watch it. You’ll also be able to search for actors and directors, and run other more targeted searches as well — all with Siri.”

If implemented correctly, this has the potential to be huge. Instead of hopping into Netflix, and then into YouTube, and then exiting out and hopping into HBO Go, for example, Apple’s Universal Search feature will function as a layer on top of all its housed content. The end result may be an extremely intuitive and efficient UI that will effectively channel agnostic.

With respect to pricing, Apple’s new set-top box will reportedly be offered at two price points, $149 and $199. The cheaper model will come with 8GB of storage while the pricier model will come with 16GB of storage.

As a quick and final point, it’s perhaps worth noting two Apple TV features that will not be announced this coming Wednesday. First, Apple’s rumored TV subscription service has reportedly been pushed back until 2016. And second, Apple’s new set-top box will reportedly not include support for 4K video.

Yoni Heisler Contributing Writer

Yoni Heisler has been writing about Apple and the tech industry at large with over 15 years of experience. A life long expert Mac user and Apple expert, his writing has appeared in Edible Apple, Network World, MacLife, Macworld UK, and TUAW.

When not analyzing the latest happenings with Apple, Yoni enjoys catching Improv shows in Chicago, playing soccer, and cultivating new TV show addictions.