red when excited

Apple TV 3G

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

No, no. I don’t mean 3G wireless… I mean a true 3rd iteration. I’ve just read “Mysterious ‘Set Top Box’ Shipment Records Hint at Refreshed Apple TV Coming Soon” over at Mac Rumours and it set me thinking… there’s been a reasonable amount of discussion about whether or not there ever will be an Apple TV SDK. We are all hoping for it, but there have been some good arguments for signs that something might be coming (Kyle’s resonated with me) and against from folks like Ben Thompson with his well thought through “Not so fast on that Apple TV SDK”. 

However, if you’ll let me play what if in the 6 days between now and September 10th, most of the “seems unlikely”s can be addressed.

Hardware isn’t powerful enough
Well it could be if they are shipping an update. The two limitations typically cited are power and SSD space. The later may easily be solved in a rev, and flash memory isn’t getting more expensive. I don’t see why Apple couldn’t do this if they chose to. Looking at power, Ben argues that the A5 series isn’t going anywhere. He might be right, but actually I think Apple have a history of throwing something away if it doesn’t meet their needs. The A6 or some variant of it could well be a candidate. Of course those A5’s may still find homes in other Apple devices as well. However, actually the biggest issue I have is… you are assuming that this will basically be the iOS SDK. Multi-tasking, system background apps (push e-mail etc) may simply not be available or running. This could be made to work with some relatively simple restrictions that have been in place before. 

You have AirPlay
You do, and it gets you a long way. But there’s lag. The kind of lag that makes arcade action games deeply unsatisfying for anything other than secondary information or more tolerant games. The kind of lag Apple doesn’t tolerate for long. Of course suggesting that AirPlay is good enough kind of discounts the next argument… Why would you both to fire up the Apple TV for AirPlay, but not for a native Apple TV app. 

You wouldn’t bother
However, I completely discount the second part of his argument (essentially referencing Chris Adamson’s post suggesting that it’s too much effort to go turn the Apple TV on rather than use your phone). Adam says he throws huge swathes of use-cases. Sure, if you start with the assumption that you aren’t already plonked on the sofa and using the Apple TV. 

Actually I think the biggest thing that you can throw at the against case is…

That Dumb Little Controller
Nope, I don’t buy a Siri based control interface. It’s not 100% reliable (it’s frustrating enough when your remote isn’t aimed correctly at the IR sensor when you twitch a muscle to press a button, let along having to repeat verbal commands). However the new controller API appearing in iOS and Mac OS X really does suggest that Apple may have a perfect storm of oppertunity. 

That said, it just feels like it enable one very specific set of use-cases. I think you would want a richer user-interface unless games and media consumption are the only goals (which they could be, and that would be enough for me). 

What if Apple aren’t worried about the same thing that the stock market is worrying about, what if the C doesn’t stand for ‘Cheap’ or ‘Colour’? 

What if it stands for ‘Controller’?

Sure you have the iPod touch, but you want a device that is always with someone when they are sitting in front of the TV. That’s not an iPod Touch, that’s an iPhone. You start to get a growing set of use-cases: 

  • Out of the box, it’s a TV peripheral
  • Add a game controller it’s a casual gaming platform
  • Add an iOS device it’s a second (big-ass) screen with native apps controlled by a touch device you always have with you

There’s a but, right? 
It’s not going to happen. I’d love it to. But not this year. Apple has certainly proved it can walk and chew gum, but they don’t need to do this now (next March would be more likely, but I don’t think there is a crushing pressure. Best in, not first to,  market is their MO). 

Oh, and the ‘C’ is totally for Colour. 
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