SAN JOSE—Apple announced tvOS updates on the WWDC stage, though the company didn’t confirm whether these features amount to a whole new version number. No huge changes mark the latest version of tvOS, but Apple did include support for Dolby Atmos surround sound, a feature that many pointed out as a missed opportunity in the Apple TV 4K.
The Apple TV 4K came out at the end of last year, and it represented a pretty big update to the streaming device since competitors like Roku added 4K support to their devices already. While it supported Dolby Vision HDR, the device did not support Dolby Atmos surround sound at launch. Apple’s next tvOS update will bring that feature to its set-top boxes, essentially allowing streamed content to produce richer sound experiences than they did before.
Existing iTunes purchases will receive Atmos sound-channel upgrades for free, Apple confirmed during the WWDC keynote. The company did not confirm whether similar support will come to older Apple TV devices.
After announcing support for new carriers around the world, particularly American cable operator Charter Spectrum, Apple announced a new “zero sign-on” feature for those subscribers. “If you’re on your TV provider’s broadband network, we’ll securely and automatically unlock all the supported apps with the TV app,” Apple TV lead designer Jen Folse said on the WWDC stage. “No sign-on required; it just works.”
Crestron, Savant, and Control4 home control systems will receive updates that allow interoperability with Apple TV devices, Folse told the crowd. She also described a new feature that allows users to look up more information about Apple TV screensaver images (“aerials”) by simply tapping the Apple TV Siri remote. Apple’s newest aerials, as shown on the WWDC stage, looked particularly handsome.
During the tvOS presentation, Apple chose not to mention its streaming ambitions for the future. The company has been investing a lot of time and money into original content, and it’s planning to debut an OTT service of its own soon (likely in early 2019) to compete with the likes of Netflix, Facebook, and YouTube. Projects currently known to be in the works are an adaptation of Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series, a reboot of Steven Spielberg’s , and a morning-show drama starring Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon.
No date was announced for exactly when to expect these updates.