Skip to main content

Will Apple Debut a Streaming Stick at Its Just Announced April 20 Product Event? (Don’t Bet on It)

Apple CEO Tim Cook
Apple CEO Tim Cook is expected by some tech industry pundits to announce a sixth-generation Apple TV device at the company's virtual product showcase next week. (Image credit: Apple)

“Why Apple doesn’t create a streaming stick is beyond me,” tweeted Kirby Grines, author of The Streaming Wars newsletter, responding to a new Roku product announcement featuring another low-priced OTT player.

“Agreed. It is indeed baffling given that they had the Shuffle and the Nano when it became apparent that the iPod was too expensive for many people,” responded TV[REV] analyst Alan Wolk.

Apple TV’s influence is certainly on the wane— it controlled only 2% of global streaming device market share in 2020, according to Strategy Analytics.

On Walmart.com, where Roku, Amazon and Google battle it out for gate control of the streaming video business with inexpensive sticks and dongles, Apple is a non-factor. It’s latest streaming device, the fifth-generation Apple TV 4K—launched all the way back in September 2017--retails for $170. The company’s fourth-generation HD-only Apple TV is still selling for $144, while the third generation of the device—launched all the way back at the dawn of the second Obama Administration—is still buyable at $69.96.

But baffling or not, don’t look for Apple to suddenly change course at its just announced April 20 product showcase event, and start battling Roku, Amazon and Google in the realm of sub-$20 streaming sticks and cheapo OS-powered smart TVs. Apple has built a market capitalization of more than $2.25 trillion on premium technology experiences, which have justified the minds of consumers willing to pay more than $1,000 for an iPhone, or $180 for three-year-old streaming device tech.

However, when Apple kicks off its event from its Cupertino, Calif. headquarters a week from today, a long-awaited refresh of Apple TV is expected by some. 

Macworld said Tuesday that there is “plenty of evidence that a new Apple TV is due to launch in 2021."

A sixth generation device would upgrade 2017’s Apple TV 4K, which run on A10 processors that were put into iPhones as early as 2016.

And Bloomberg reported Monday that Apple is in the early stages of product development on a new device merging Apple TV with the company’s HomePod smart speaker

Then again, it wouldn’t be entirely surprising for Apple to stand pat on streaming hardware, a business that Roku admits is break-even for it at this point. 

Notably, Apple has proliferated the Apple TV app—and the SVOD service housed within it, Apple TV Plus—beyond its own device ecosystem, gaining support for it within not only Roku and Amazon Fire TV, but also device consoles Xbox and PlayStation.