Summer bust-up expected with new Apple TV and Roku coming onstream
See you later, clunky Comcast piece of … kit
The video-streaming market looks set to have a blockbuster summer with new versions of both the Apple TV and the Roku expected to land.
Both boxes are currently on their third versions, but it is the fourth generation that is expected to be a huge determiner for the future of the streaming market as more people move away from cable and the FCC's network neutrality rules give a boost to online providers.
The latest Roku and Apple TV have been heavily discounted in recent weeks - with the Roku 3 now $79 instead of $100 and the Apple TV version 3 now $69 instead of $99.
The forthcoming versions will bring something new to the market. The Roku 4 is widely expected to provide 4K UltraHD picture quality to match the latest flatscreen TVs, as well as the next service upgrade expected from Netflix.
However, Apple TV – which has remained less popular than Roku to date because of its closed garden approach in which it doesn't allow rivals such as Vudu or Amazon Prime on its platform – may have an ace up its sleeve.
The company has already announced it will be the exclusive provider of HBO on a streaming box for the foreseeable future – just in time for the fifth season of the hugely popular Game of Thrones.
So while you can now get HBO Go on the Roku (something that only recently happened), you'll still need to get it through a cable subscription rather than on the box itself.
But the really big differentiator could come from well-sourced rumors that Apple is close to a deal with Comcast to effectively allow its to act as a cable box, running programs from the cable giant through its hardware.
Apple already has deals with CBS, ABC and Fox to stream their content and Comcast may have decided that the future is no longer in providing horribly clunky and outdated hardware as a way to tie customers into its service.
The new Apple TV was due to be officially launched this month but ongoing discussions with cable companies have apparently delayed that launch - again pointing to Apple's effort to leapfrog its rivals but getting to cable customers. Now the news is that the company will use its June developer conference in San Francisco to announce the latest version.
Likewise, the Roku 4 was expected this month but for unknown reasons a launch date has yet to be announced. The company has rolled out a different version of the Roku every two years and the speculation is that the company is watching what Apple will do before jumping into the market with its latest version.
In the meantime, there is also Amazon's Fire TV. No? Ok, well there's also Google's Nexus Player. That's not bad either. Ok, so let's all just hold off until June. ®