With its competition moving ahead, it’s time for the fifth generation Apple TV

It’s time for Apple to give us a new Apple TV, hopefully one with 4K support. Roku has pulled waaaay ahead of Apple’s set-top box and leads the market in the number of connected TV users in the United States, according to new research from eMarketer.

The research firm estimates that 38.9 million users will use a Roku at least once a month this year, compared to comes in above the 36.9 million for Google’s Chromecast and 35.8 million for Amazon’s Fire TV. The Apple TV comes in at the back of the pack with 21.3 million.  

 eMarketer isn’t too optimistic about Apple’s set-top box’s chances, predicting the company will add less than 4 million users by 2021 compared to the 20 million to 30 million net adds by the competition.  Paul Verna, principal video analyst at eMarketer. points to the lack of the Amazon Video app as one of the things impacting Apple TV’s market share, along with its lack of a “compelling content offering,” and a much higher price bracket. Apple’s hardware starts at $150, while Google, Amazon and Roku all offer streaming sticks priced under $40, the report noted.

However, Apple CEO Tim Cook has expressed optimism about the Apple TV’s future. “We think of the new Apple TV as the foundation for what we can do in the space,” he said. “I don't want to be more specific than that. Just don't look at what's there today and think we've done what we want to do. We've built a foundation that we think we can build something bigger off of.”

And tvOS is getting a big update, which means Apple TV is going to be an even better streaming video device. It's also getting an Amazon Video app, which should boost sales. 

In addition to software improvements, the fifth gen Apple TV — which I expect to see unveiled this fall along with tvOS 11— could (and should) introduce a larger hard drive option along with 4K support. Earlier this year Apple increased the maximum allotted size for apps on the Apple TV from 200MB to 4GB. A fifth gem Apple TV with 4K and HDR support as well as 128GB and 250 hard drive options seems logical.