As I explained in my recent critical take on the Apple TV box, I was nevertheless curious about the next generation of the device. It was presented a few days ago on Apple’s big product event and pretty much reached up to my expectations, without exceeding them.
From my perspective, the new Apple TV is not a milestone or a big deal, but there is one aspect that I am excited about: the voice control capabilities powered by Siri.
Unfortunately, based on the information from the press release and early reviews, Apple falls short of actually adding a smart personal assistant to the Apple TV box. Instead, Siri’s focus lies on voice search for TV shows and movies across an initially very limited number of content providers (= apps). So at least for now, Apple TV users won’t be able to rely on the device as a full-fledged smart assistant that greets them in the morning with a friendly “Hello Martin, how do you feel? What can I do for you today?”. Although apparently asking about the weather will work. It’s also a bit sad to learn that initially, the Apple TV version with Siri will only be available in 8 countries.
I have explained before in my posts about Amazon’s smart box Echo why I am enthusiastic about the concept of voice-controlled smart assistants for the home. On the go I prefer text over voice input. I actually have deactivated Siri on my iPhone to avoid triggering it accidentally. But in my private home, I would embrace the opportunity to pull information through voice instead of text (but not from Amazon).
So I am actually sad that even the new Apple TV won’t satisfy that desire. This leads me to some questions:
- Does Apple acknowledge the potential of personal smart assistants such as Amazon’s Echo? (I think it is safe to assume that the answer is “yes”)
- Will the company enhance Siri’s capabilities on the upcoming Apple TV device over time or will the kind of service that I envision require yet another hardware upgrade to the Apple TV?
- Does Apple work on another type of device, a smart home hub separate from the Apple TV and similar to the Echo, which will include a full-fledged digital assistant as well as capabilities to control other smart home appliances via HomeKit? As it turns out, HomeKit does not seem to be part of the current tvOS (the platform powering the new Apple TV).
My guess is that Apple in fact (still) believes in transforming the Apple TV box into a smart home hub, complete with full-fledged personal assistant powered by Siri. Assuming that this is the case, then the company clearly still thinks that the time is not right yet.