For years, Apple (AAPL) referred to its Apple TV set top streaming box as a “hobby.” After all, with the volume of iPods, iPhones and then iPads the company was selling — not to mention a PC business that was defying industry trends by actually growing, along with its highly successful iTunes store — there were a lot more profitable business lines to focus on.
However, after AAPL sold more than $1 billion worth of the $99 streaming boxes in 2013, Apple is singing a different tune, with CEO Tim Cook telling attendees of the company’s annual meeting: “It’s a little more difficult to call it a hobby these days.”
A new Apple TV is overdue, and AAPL is currently offering $25 gift cards with the purchase of the existing model, signaling that it may be trying to clear out stock.
There are also signs the company might be prepared to take the Apple TV to the next logical stage, enabling gaming to take advantage of a vast library of inexpensive iOS titles in a move that could be a living room death blow to struggling Nintendo (NTDOY).
Standing still isn’t an option if Apple wants to maintain momentum. There are rumors that Amazon (AMZN) is preparing to enter the market with its own set top streaming/gaming box, and Google (GOOG) is making waves with its Chromecast.
As we wait for official word on APPL’s next step in the living room, here’s a history of the AppleTV in gallery form, tracing the set top streaming box from its hobby origins to $1 billion-plus product.