Apple TV could be star of Wednesday’s show

Apple has already upturned the computing, music and mobile phone industries. If the rumors and reports circling around the company are correct, it’s now taking an aim at television.

At a media event in San Francisco on Wednesday, Apple is widely expected to unveil a new version of its Apple TV device that could revolutionize the way we use and interact with television, analysts say. If Apple does what’s been rumored, “they’re going to bring the interactive user interface between me and my television into the 21st century,” said Tim Bajarin, principal analyst with Creative Strategies, a technology consulting firm.

Apple TV is one of a number of items that the company is expected to discuss at the event, which will be held at Bill Graham Civic Auditorium. The company is also expected to roll out updates to its iPhone lineup, a new version of its iOS software that underlies those devices and possibly a new, larger-screened iPad. But it’s the new Apple TV that has perhaps the most revolutionary potential.

Apple has been dabbling in the television market for years now. Steve Jobs unveiled the first iteration of Apple TV in 2006, before he announced the first version of the iPhone. The device was designed to allow users to watch movies or listen to music they purchased from Apple’s iTunes store through their living room televisions and entertainment systems.

Over the years, Apple has added a variety of channels that allow users to stream movies or music over the Internet from sources like Netflix, YouTube and HBO. But Apple officials have long treated the device as the “hobby” they often describe it as, investing relatively little effort to keep up with rivals. Apple hasn’t updated the Apple TV hardware in more than three years, during which time Amazon and Google have introduced low-cost streaming devices to the market.

While Apple has gradually added more channels to Apple TV over the years, it’s been outclassed by the competition. Roku’s rival boxes offer thousands of channels, instead of the few dozen you can currently get on Apple TV. Google’s Android TV software already allows third-party developers to create television apps for Nvidia’s Shield box and other devices running it. Amazon’s Fire TV gadget launched with the ability to play games. And all three of those allow users to search for content using their voice.

But Apple may be about to take television and the competition more seriously. According to published reports, the new device will have the same powerful mobile processor that is in the iPhone 6, giving it the ability to run sophisticated apps and games. Its new remote control will have a touch pad and motion sensors, offering users new ways of interacting with games and movies. And users are expected to be able to use Siri, Apple’s voice assistant technology, to be able to easily search for movies or television shows from different content providers.

The biggest change could be the addition of an application store. When Apple added an app store to the iPhone, it helped turn the smartphone into a powerful new computing platform. Bajarin said an Apple TV that users can customize with their choice of apps has similar potential.

“The user interface that will be a huge issue, but the fact that it will be a platform that developers can create applications for is where it really, really changes the dynamic,” he said.