Apple readying new TV accessory with speakers, camera

Apple is in the preliminary stages of building two new devices, including a much-anticipated upgrade of its Apple TV hardware that could sport a video camera and powerful speakers, according to a report.

On Monday, the financial publication Bloomberg said it had learned about the new devices from sources within the company who went unidentified because of sensitivities discussing internal matters.

The report was authored by Mark Gurman, a technology journalist who has a history of landing accurate Apple scoops, including information on forthcoming products well before they are announced. But the story comes amid some concerns that Apple itself may have pushed misinformation about a product event that proved to be non-existent as a tactic to weed out leakers.

Still, given Gurman’s diligence for publishing scoops combined with the usual trustworthiness of Bloomberg, the chances are good that the devices will be announced by Apple relatively soon.

One device, Gurman said, would offer the same features as the company’s Apple TV, a set-top box that allows customers to access streaming video apps and games. It would also sport a set of speakers and a camera for videoconferencing, Gurman wrote.

Another device would mark Apple’s entry into the smart screen segment of the industry, in that it would combine Apple’s intelligent assistant Siri with a touch screen and speakers. As described, the device would resemble Amazon’s Echo Show or Google’s Nest Hub, except that it would be powered by Apple’s own operating system.

The smart display could help Apple push farther into a segment of the industry dominated by Amazon and Google. The company’s line of HomePod speakers have been well-received since launching a few years ago, but their cost combined with limited feature set have made them fail to resonate with customers compared to cheaper, more abundant and advanced offerings from its rivals.

Apple eventually discontinued its top-of-the-line HomePod speaker, which retailed for around $300. As of March, the company shifted to selling its cheaper successor, the $100 HomePod Mini.

By developing an Apple TV that is integrated with a video camera into a speaker, Apple would be offering something that few others have: A mostly-unified, premium cinematic experience — just bring the TV set. It’s a product that rivals Google and Amazon have steered clear from so far, though one of the industry’s market leaders, Roku, has offered a streaming TV device integrated into a soundbar for at least two years.

If Bloomberg’s report is true as described, the Apple TV soundbar would likely work out of the box with all of Apple’s compatible TV apps, which includes streaming services from most major players like Netflix; the Walt Disney Company’s Hulu, ESPN Plus and Disney Plus; AT&T’s HBO Max and AT&T TV; Comcast’s Peacock; Dish Network’s Sling TV and Google’s YouTube and YouTube TV.

Less clear is what Apple’s smart screen would work with — Amazon and Google’s line of smart screens have mostly worked with each company’s own streaming services and smart devices (Amazon Prime Video and Works with Alexa on Amazon; YouTube, Google Play and Works with Google Assistant for Google) while offering limited support for third party streaming services and smart devices.

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