With its recent product announcements and HBO Now exclusive deal, Apple has been in the news of late. Now comes the scuttlebutt that the company is planning a new Apple TV settop box and a streaming music service based on the DNA of Beats Music.

The question for us is, How much of an impact will either have? Apple has typically excelled when paving new ground. But for streaming music services, iTunes Radio is playing catch-up to more established offerings.

Apple TV

As for Apple TV, we've felt for a while that despite its obvious benefits, the settop box is starting to feel a bit long in the tooth, especially compared with Amazon Fire TV, the revamped Roku players, and other newer media players. The price of the current Apple TV has dropped to $69 from $99.

According to a report by Buzzfeed, Apple will unveil a revamped settop box and perhaps a new app/game store at its developers conference in June. The report speculates that the new box will be more powerful. Buzzfeed also expects that Apple TV will feature Siri voice control and have more storage than the current model's 8GB.

Not mentioned in the article is Apple's recent exclusive deal with the HBO Now streaming service, which will be available only on Apple TV for three months before it becomes available on other streaming players. A new settop box would dovetail nicely with reports that Apple is also readying a streaming video service for launch in the fall.

Find the right streaming media player with our buying guide and Ratings.

Streaming music service

According to The New York Times, Apple is looking to integrate Beats into a new streaming music service that would compete with Spotify and other streaming-music services, though it probably won't be cheaper. The article says that Apple was rebuffed when it asked the major music labels for cheaper pricing so it could offer a service for $8 a month rather than the $10 charged by most others. It also speculates that the company might be revamping iTunes Radio with programming that would have more regional appeal. It said that Apple is looking to get exclusives on blockbuster new albums that would be available on iTunes before other services.  

What's not yet clear is how an Apple/Beats Music streaming service will differentiate itself from its more established competition. It's assumed that Apple's purchase of Beats was largely predicated on the ability to leverage Beats Music's underlying technology and key features, such as curated playlists. It is also expected that like Beats Music, the new Apple service will require a paid subscription.

—James K. Willcox

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