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Apple TV prediction party

WWDC is just two weeks away, and this is my last iDevBlogADay spot before then (actually, yesterday was my slot, but I got thrown off by the holiday). Everyone else is going to be chiming in with predictions until then — put me down for something specific, like “Core Audio changes the canonical data types to floating-point, since ARM7 is perfectly capable of doing float” — and I don’t have much to say that I haven’t said before.

A lot of the talk is about the possibility of an Apple TV set, or an Apple TV SDK. I talked a bunch about this in my Anime Central-inspired Mac/iOS media post, but to summarize…

AirPlay is Apple’s secret weapon, to a degree that has not fully been appreciated by many. I mean that literally; Time Warner Cable’s CEO admitted to Engadget that he doesn’t know what it is. But by turning every iPhone/iPad/iPod-touch into a de facto cable box, powered by hundreds of video apps, there’s a huge potential for distrupting the existing industry. At this point, Crunchyroll is surely my favorite iOS app of all, given that it has effectively become my very own personal anime TV channel (four words, folks: Puella Magi Madoka Magica). Multiply this by a hundred niches and content providers (including 3 of the 4 big team sports in the US) and you’ve got a tsunami.

The trick is that Apple didn’t scare the incumbents with a frontal attack — they’ve let content providers slowly build up the streaming content collection. All that’s needed now is to remove the AirPlay link and run directly on the box via a Apple TV SDK. And if you’ve ever plugged an Apple TV into Xcode via the micro-USB (to test betas, as I did last year while working on AirPlay support for a client’s app), you know that Xcode recognizes the Apple TV as an iOS device and even offers a (non-functional) “enable for development” button. This is something that they could enable at a time and place of their choosing, and maybe that’ll be in two weeks.

That said, developers might not have an accurate view of what Apple TV development would be. Someone at A2-CocoaHeads said he wanted an Apple TV SDK so that he could write a game where an iPhone or iPod touch served as the game control for a TV-based game. Of course, this is possible now: the Apple TV shows up in [UIScreen screens], so you run the game logic on the handheld device and just draw graphics to the second screen.

And who knows what kinds of apps will be welcome or permitted? It would be uncharacteristic of Apple to require or even tolerate substantial keyboard-based entry on Apple TV apps — Google TV shipped a keyboard-based remote control, and how did that work out? Someone’s going to say we need streaming video apps with integrated chat, but if you really have to do that, again, you could do that today by running the app and hosting the chat interface on the iPad and streaming the video to the Apple TV.

If there is an Apple TV SDK, it should neither surprise nor disappoint anyone if the only apps that Apple accepts for it are streaming media. It’s called focus, people, something that distinguishes Apple.

Comments (3)

  1. EssentialParadox

    A lot of people have shared this prediction that apps will come to the Apple
    TV….. but why?

    Apps on Apple TV also make no sense because the Apple remote is designed for watching video, not for interacting with software or games. To interface with the supposed Apple TV Apps, the user would require a touchscreen iOS device to do so…. but if they already have an iOS device, they already have AirPlay.

    Apps also make no sense for TV or movie content… A bunch of different networks making their own apps with interface differences, niggles, and issues; all trying to re-invent the wheel for watching video content. Whereas Apple can simply create a single content channel and ask content owners to upload to it, allowing them to choose a few limited settings (ads, regions, etc.)

  2. Of course they would need a different UI, just as the small number of apps directly ported from Mac to iPad did (OmniGraffle, Pages, Garage Band, etc.). In this process, developers rethought their UIs for the touch UI and replaced AppKit calls with UIKit. If there is to be a 3rd-party Apple TV SDK, it would presumably have a “TV Kit” that would be based around the four-direction remote control.

    A lot of apps wouldn’t make sense in this context. That’s why I would be fine with Apple limiting it to streaming media only. The idea of playing Angry Birds with a TV remote is clearly idiotic.

    Simple reason AirPlay alone isn’t good enough: minimum price of entry is $200 for an iPod touch (or free iPhone 3GS with 2-year contract), plus the $100 Apple TV. So us Apple fans are taken care of, but it would work better if it only took one device instead of two.

    Why would different interfaces from various providers be bad if the nature of the providers is different? There’s a huge difference between live streams of sporting events versus a library of old movies, and it would be desirable to optimize the interface for each one — say, a current scoreboard for the former, genres or “search by cast/crew/studio” for the latter. Once you’re actually playing of course, default playback controls take over. After all, there’s little difference between the various iPhone/iPad streaming video apps once playback begins.

    Apple already created a “single content channel”. It’s called iTunes. It’s successful enough, but notice that they still felt the need to include Netflix, Vimeo, MLB, NBA, NHL, etc. along with the default apps in the Apple TV.

  3. […] the verge of WWDC, wondering whether Apple might release an Apple TV SDK. Oh, that’s right, it was last year that we were talking about this. And there’s still no SDK, but hope springs […]

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