Aleksandar • Vacić

iOS bits and pieces

Carefree musings on Apple TV

While listening my favorite podcasts these days, quite a bit of them are discussing this quote from the Steve Jobs biography:

I’d like to create an integrated television set that is completely easy to use. It would be seamlessly synced with all of your devices and with iCloud. It will have the simplest user interface you could imagine. I finally cracked it.

Mouth-watering, isn’t it? Given the fact what was done for phone and tablets, this is beyond interesting. John Gruber, Marco Arment and John Siracusa all shared how they see this working. As usual, I agree with bits from all of the stuff they said, but not all of it (and them do not agree on all counts). There’s also an oft-linked NY Times article on Siri as the main interface for this new TV.

Here’s what I believe will be main features of the future Apple TV business.

There will be a physical TV made by Apple. Probably offered in several typical sizes, with whatever screen technology they choose for it. IT will have integrated their current little black box with the same name, or (more likely) iPad internals. It will of course have new software that will support stuff I’ll mention in a bit.

It will use a new remote based on Bluetooth 4.0 + it will have integrated Siri support. Siri will be activated either from your existing iOS device (which will previously be connected over Bt4.0 with the TV) or through a button on the new remote. The new non-IR remote will allow you to manage it from anywhere in TV surrounding, not when facing it directly (as you need to do with IR remote).

No cable cards nor anything like it, only one (or maybe few) HDMI ports so you can plug-in your existing set-top box. They can’t have all the possible content from the get-go (although I’m sure they will strive to have lots of it) so they must support existing stuff somehow. Adding HDMI ports is the easiest way and TV software will allow you to switch to that port and then simply be a screen for whatever is there. HDMI can also be used to support gaming consoles and such, but I somehow don’t see Apple caring much about that.

Channels will become apps. As Gruber points out, some content producers are already doing this. The issue here is what to do with like 100 apps or who knows how many channels exists around the world, both actual TV stations or shows produced by popular web sites (like Engadget). Well, they already have a solution for this.

Apps will be inside a new special folder I’ll call TV stand which will work exactly like Newstand does now. But it will be enhanced (probably in iOS 6) so that app icons will be live. When you open the folder, it will change from static app icons to live previews of whatever is currently broadcasted on that particular app. They already have this on the Mac - live thumbnails in Exposé.

Further, on the TV it will take over entire screen and basically look like a grid of TVs. It will have infinite scroll to support any number of apps and you could easily check out all the stations, all the shows. They might even have two folders, one for live TV and another for periodicals (TV shows and such).

TV stand will feature subscriptions just like newsstand and this will deeply integrate with  your existing iTunes season passes and what not. If they go really crazy on this, they could do their own version of what the wonderful Plex app (and Boxee and Roku and…etc) is doing right now and offer full access to everything you have through iCloud. Watch your content (both your local and broadcasted) from any device, at any internet-enabled location.

Each of these channel apps will have full iOS API at their disposal and they could create interactive content beyond anything that was possible so far. Imagine viewers calling-in over face time, real-time version of CNN’s iReport (if they choose to do that) etc.

Air Play will allow full screen gaming, basically killing off whatever gaming consoles survive until then. You will use iPhone, iPod touch or iPad as controllers and play on the TV. Alone or with friends. New APIs will enable that. Some apps already offer it (using Bluetooth) - see this demo trailer for majicJungle’s wonderful Chopper 2.

I can dream more, but this is the essence. With this, “Apple will get into your den”. Remember that one? :)