Apple assessed Apple TV 'dongle' to goose adoption of new streaming service, report says

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Apple has reportedly conducted internal discussions about an Apple TV streaming stick similar to devices offered by Amazon and Google, a low-cost hardware option that would be well positioned to proliferate a video streaming service rumored to debut next year.

A sparsely detailed report from The Information claims Apple employees considered the creation of an Apple TV dongle, hardware that would compete against Amazon's Fire Stick and Google's Chromecast, in a bid to increase adoption of an as-yet-unannounced streaming product.

The hardware would presumably plug in to USB or HDMI ports on modern televisions, allowing quick and easy access to the tvOS platform. More importantly, streaming sticks are much less expensive than set-top boxes, meaning Apple is, or was, mulling a downmarket grab.

Whether the company moved to develop the product, or has plans to do so, is unknown. Also unknown is how far up the ladder these discussions went. Apple engineers often toss around ideas about side projects that never make it beyond their team, let alone to the C-suite. However, there are a select few — rarities like the HomePod — that do become shipping products.

However, that some Apple workers considered a low-cost Apple TV option is telling of the company's desire to push its upcoming video streaming service. For a consumer electronics firm that stakes its claim on high-end products, recently doubling down on the strategy with 2018 iPhone and iPad model pricing, marketing a relatively inexpensive dongle would be a break in form.

Apple's fourth-generation Apple TV is priced at $149, while the Apple TV 4K comes in at $179, figures well above competing offerings from market leader Roku. Pricing is considered a major factor in Apple's dwindling share of the streaming device market.

Still, reports indicate Apple is investing at least $1 billion on a new streaming service expected to debut next year. From TV series to movies, the tech giant has contracted with some of the biggest names in Hollywood to seed content for the unannounced video product.

How the service will be marketed is unclear, though rumors suggest everything from a standalone product to a bundle with Apple Music and News, the latter folding in assets from Apple's recent purchase of digital magazine subscription service Texture.

A report last month claimed original shows will initially be made available for free through the TV app, software currently accessible on iOS and tvOS.