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Apple Wants YOU to Develop TV Apps

At their September Keynote event, Apple launched their fourth-generation Apple TV with a vague release date of October sometime. With a week to spare, it looks like Apple will squeak in their latest set-top box right before the end of the month.

Apple CEO Tim Cook took the stage at WSJD Live to announce that “the foundation of the future of TV” is available for order as of today and that shipping will begin by the end of this week (Friday, October 30).

As discussed in my ‘Are Apps The Future of TV?’ post, the biggest new feature of the Apple TV is its new App Store. So that you don’t turn on your new set-top box to be greeted with a barren App Store, Apple has just started accepting app and game submissions from its development community.

Apple has provided app developers, like us, with guidelines for supporting major Apple TV features and submitting tvOS apps. Now they’re calling out potential app entrepreneurs and startups, like YOU, to change the way we consume and connect with television.

So what do disruptive app developers and entrepreneurs need to know about the fourth-generation Apple TV?

In this post, we examine Apple’s next big product and how you, as an early adopter, can create apps that change the way we gather around our big screens.

 

What’s in the Box?

Made entirely from glossy and matte black plastics, the new Apple TV looks just like its two predecessors, only around 50% taller with two rear port changes. All audio has to go through HDMI and the previous micro-USB port has given way to a USB-C connector. As iFixit notes, a giant heat sink inside makes it noticeably heavier than before.

The new Apple TV will also be shipped with a new Siri Remote, which is black on top and silver on the bottom. To make scrolling quicker, Apple has replaced the prior four-direction navigation circle with a small matte glass surface that can be used for navigational swipe and gentler positing. Gyroscope/accelerometer sensors are hidden inside the remote for future games, and not user within the main Apple TV interface.

applesiriremotefamily

The evolution of the Apple TV Remote.

Four new buttons have been added to enable the Siri Remote to control your TV’s volume, activate twin built-in microphones for Siri voice input, and quickly return to the Apple TV’s main menu. Apple has also included a multi-month rechargeable battery this time that can be refuelled with an included Lightning to USB cable.

 

What’s the new Software?

Apple has substantially redesigned the Apple TV’s user interface with an ambitious, visually appealing set of improvements. Everything’s been whitewashed with a brighter colour palette, text has been flipped to Apple’s new San Francisco font, and drop shadows have been added. Translucent panes introduced in iOS7 have made their way to tvOS, with even better results.

One big change that isn’t obvious from screenshots is speed: the new Apple TV lets you zip rather than plodding through menus, thanks in equal parts to a considerably beefier A8 processor and the more responsive Siri Remote. Additionally, app icons and cover art images now wiggle in 3D thanks to an Apple mandate that developers include 2-5 parallax layers to create depth.

Much of the new UI, including Apple-developer widgets like Weather and Stocks that aren’t represented by app icons, can be navigated using Siri voice commands. You have to hold down the Siri Remote’s microphone button while you speak to get Siri to “hear” and process whatever you say. This takes a little adjustment, but is better than killing the Siri Remote’s by having it endlessly listen for the words “Hey Siri” or, even worse, trolling questions like “How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuckwood”

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Siri’s answer to the age-old-troll question. Source: MacRumors

By holding down the mic button, Siri can be activated in the middle of pretty much anything, including videos. You can use Siri for voice-controlled navigation, “What did they just say?” type inquires, and lookups of information related to whatever’s currently playing.

Along with the new UI and Siri Remote, the biggest new addition to Apple TV’s Software – well, for us app developers and entrepreneurs – is the soon to be opened App Store. More than likely, the set-top box will arrive with only a handful of Apple-developed apps pre-installed, leaving you to choose which third-party developed apps will be filling up your Home screen.

 

What To Expect From TV Apps and Games

The A8 processor inside the new Apple TV is one year and three generations old, which is to say that it’s already been surpassed in power by the iPhone 6s/6s Plus’s A9 and iPad Pro’s A9X. But with at least as much horsepower as these other Apple products, the Apple TV will be well-equipped to play new games, as well as thousands of games previously released on iOS devices, assuming that they’re updated to support the tvOS operating system.

Expect the graphics in 3D games to be roughly on par with consoles such as the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, with no shortage of ability to handle 2D games of any type.

One note of caution about tvOS games: for all of the set-top box’s incredible potential as a gaming platform, Apple continue to ignore requests from serious gamers regarding basic controller issues, such as allowing developers to offer games without support for the restrictive Siri Remote. It remains to be seen whether software and hardware decisions like this, which have upset many within the gaming community, kills the Apple TV’s ability to win over major game developers and their customers.

While apps are a lot easier to code than games, the Apple TV’s living room-focused interface hints that Apple’s not looking to see it turn into a cut-rate Mac. Basic widgets to extend the functionality of traditional TV features – watching sports, learning about the weather – will appear quickly, as will tvOS versions of Netflix, HBO Now, Hulu Plus and other channels.

However, don’t expect Apple to endorse creation apps, web browsers, or other Mac mainstays for the platform. Well, not yet, at least. Similarly, it will be interesting to see whether compromised apps with audio and/or one-way video calling take off in the absence of integrated FaceTime-caliber hardware.

 

Have An Idea for a TV App?

Even though prior versions of the Apple TV haven’t been mega-hits, the second- and third-generation models proved to be quite handy for everything from watching videos to occasionally putting FaceTime calls on the big screen.

I’m personally very excited about the fourth-generation Apple TV’s potential and think the next year will be a wild ride for early adopters. The first two or three months may be chaotic for developers and entrepreneurs as they rush to get hastily completed apps and games into the Apple TV App Store. In time though, the right kind of apps will change the way we experience television for the better.

What kind of apps would you like to see on a television platform? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

 

Are Apps The Future of TV?

“The future of TV is apps,” said Apple CEO Tim Cook as he launched the fourth-generation Apple TV. But are we set to transform the way we consume and connect with television? We examine the latest Apple TV and its new App Store to find out.

During the much-anticipated September Keynote event, Apple showcased a host of revamped devices, including the iPhone 6S and an iPad Pro with a swanky smart keyboard accessory (A.K.A. Apple’s version of the Microsoft Surface Pro). But the show-stealing product was the fourth-generation Apple TV and the vision bestowed upon the new set-top box.

“It’s the golden age of television,” said Apple CEO Tim Cook. “Our vision for TV is simple and perhaps a little provocative. We believe the future of television is apps.”

To me, the word ‘provocative’ sticks out here. Will having a TV App Store challenge the channel-browsing habits that have defined the television experience for decades?

Short answer: Yes. Slightly longer answer: Yes – And it’s about time!

In 2007, the first generation Apple TV was released. A year later, the iPhone App Store was launched with only 500 apps. That number has grown to well over a million apps in just seven years.

Now that Apple TV will finally have an App Store, it’s where the iPhone was back in 2008: open to third-party apps.

The App Store has changed the world by encouraging app developers to create mobile experiences that transcended industry, entrepreneurship and international distribution boundaries. Will allowing developers to create apps for the Apple TV lead to a similar revolution in the channel-browsing experience?

To assess this question in detail, we have examined the latest Apple TV set-top box and its new App Store to find out if apps are set to transform the way we consume content and interact with television.

 

The New App Store

The long-awaited overhaul to Apple TV is centred on Apple’s vision that apps are the future of television. The biggest new feature of the Apple TV is its new App Store.

In conjunction with the launch of the tvOS Operating System, the newly built-in App Store allows Apple and third-party developers to expand Apple TV’s software ecosystem and widen its core functionality.

“When you experience TV in this way through an app, you realise how much better it can be. You can search for what you want, you can interact with it where and when you want.” – Tim Cook, CEO of Apple

Apple TV Remote

Source: VentureBeat

As Chris Welch from The Verge notes, this is the next step in Apple’s attempt to own the living room. It arrives ahead of Apple’s own TV subscription service, expected to come sometime in the next year.

To achieve such an objective, you can understand why Apple has taken the same route that allowed them to capture the smartphone experience. The App Store for TV is almost identical to its iPhone equivalent. There are top charts and a single purchase of an app means you can install it across all your Apple devices. Apps even have continuity among devices that allows you to buy an app on your Apple TV and run it on your iPhone.

Apple launched the new App Store for TV by referring to it as “the golden age of television”. This may be a ‘provocative’ vision, but it’s unlikely to prove as disruptive to the TV industry as the iPod and iTunes proved to be to the music industry. When you consider the strikingly similar launch of the revolutionary iPhone App Store over seven years ago, Apple could just as easily referred to the new App Store for TV as “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”.

 

The New Siri Remote

The new Apple TV provides a ‘hands-on’ approach to interacting with television using Siri, Apple’s personal assistant technology. The new Siri touch remote allows viewers to shop, listen to music, and search using vague descriptions. E.g. ‘best movies from the ‘90s’ will see Siri searching in the box before displaying all the results.

Apple TV and Remote

Source: Daily Star

As seen above, the top of the remote features a touch surface for easier navigation. It maintains the simplicity accustomed to Apple products with just a few buttons — Menu, Airplay, Siri/Voice control, play/pause, and an option to adjust the volume. And to top it off, as you watch shows and movies, Siri can also provide current weather conditions or keep you updated on sports scores.

 

The New Gaming Platform

With new features, it is the remote’s game controller functionality that will change the way we interact with our TVs. The new tvOS Operating System means that game developers can new create gaming experiences that feature touch surface navigation and voice command functionality.

Apple has made games a primary selling point of its new Apple TV product. This is not surprising when many of the components necessary for an innovative game experience will come with the device. This includes the new Siri remote and an App Store to buy and download games. Furthermore, Apple already had unexpected success with Games being the top category of apps for both iPhone and iPad.

“I think Apple’s going to create a big new category in gaming, one that others have tried and failed to create before,” said Jan Dawson from technology research firm Jackdaw Research. “What the Apple TV has the potential to do is to bring casual gaming to the living room and make it a much more social activity.”

 

So what is the future of TV? Stay tuned…

The launch of the fourth-generation Apple TV could bring an innovative change to content consumption and interaction.

The App Store will allow developers to change what we can expect from the television experience. The Siri Remote will allow users to change how to navigate and interact with their big screen. The Gaming Platform will allow Apple to change casual gaming by bringing it to the living room TV.

These innovative changes are the future of Apple TV, but that doesn’t mean that apps are the future of TV.

The future of TV is the right kind of apps. Streaming apps likes Netflix and casual games like Crossy Road make sense as apps for TV. But would browsing Social Media or shopping on your TV provide a better user experience than your iPhone or computer? I don’t think so.

Note to the future of TV: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Do you think apps are the future of TV? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.