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Next Apple TV May Feature New Interface and Games

A long-awaited update to Apple TV may be here soon. The rumors swirling now say that the streaming media box will offer improved functionality with a new interface, games and controller support. Apple is expected to announce the update in the first half of the year, and 9to5mac thinks the new operating system will be based on iOS.

If the rumors are accurate and the next Apple TV does actually support gaming controllers, Apple could be in a better position to compete with rival products such as Roku and Google's Chromecast. The current Apple TV (last updated in 2012) lets you watch Internet video such as movies via iTunes, Netflix, Hulu, HBO Go, as well as stream content like pictures and apps on your television via AirPlay. The Roku streaming player offers more than 1,000 channels of content compared to the dozens offered by Apple TV. Certain configurations of Roku even come with motion control-enabled remotes so you can play games.

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Released last year, Chromecast is an HDMI dongle that plugs into your TV and does pretty much the same, except it also lets you cast content on your Chrome tabs to the big screen. This means that a wider variety of content, such as Flash-based videos or games and independent content could be streamed to the television even without a Chromecast-optimized app. Google has also been furiously adding Internet TV apps to its Chromecast library. At just $30, Chromecast is also cheaper than the Roku (from $49.99) and the Apple TV ($99).

We look forward to seeing whether these Apple TV rumors come true, especially if Apple adds a TV-dedicated Games Store, since that may give it an advantage over the more affordable Roku and Chromecast.

Follow Cherlynn Low at @CherlynnLow and on Google+. Follow Tom's Guide at @tomsguide, on Facebook and on Google+.