(Bloomberg) -- Apple Inc. upgraded its Apple TV set-top box to handle higher-quality video as competition from Amazon.com Inc., Roku Inc., and Google heats up in the living room.
The new Apple model can stream 4K video, which is much higher resolution than standard 1080p video, from the iTunes movie catalog and other apps such as Netflix and Amazon’s video service, Apple said during an event Tuesday at the its new headquarters in Cupertino, California. The box will also support HDR video, which shows a more accurate representation of colors. It starts at $179, versus $149 for the current model. The new box will be available for order on Sept. 15, Apple said.
The updated box, called the Apple TV 4K, has a new processor that’s twice as fast as the existing box and four times faster for graphics. Apple also previewed deeper integration of live television, allowing users to navigate between live news and sports streams via the company’s new TV app.
Apple has been trying for years to revolutionize TV in the same way it changed phones. But it has so far struggled to make a big impact. The Apple TV is part of the company’s "Other Products" unit that accounts for just 6 percent of revenue. However, the product is a key accessory to the iPhone and the centerpiece of Apple’s emerging video content strategy and Services business. Apple has pledged to invest $1 billion in original video.
Apple executive Eddy Cue said on Tuesday that all major movie studios have signed up to deliver 4K movies through the box. All high-definition videos previously purchased from Apple will be upgraded for free to 4K, he added.
Apple overhauled the box in 2015, giving it a version of the iPhone’s operating system, a third-party app ecosystem via the App Store, a touch-based remote, and Siri voice control. Since then, the market for internet-connected set-top boxes has heated up. Apple TV will have 21.3 million users this year, trailing numbers from Roku and Amazon boxes and Google Chromecasts, which will each top 35 million users, eMarketer estimates.