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I never believed the rumors that Apple TV would be a required hub for HomeKit, but I expected it to at least support it. I imagine the Internet of Things will come to Apple TV in a future release. Wouldn’t it be great to close the shades, dim the lights and start a movie, all from your Apple TV? I could even envision a smart popcorn machine controlled by Apple TV.
tvOS enables custom experiences for content apps. If you already own an Apple TV, you are aware that all channels look alike. They have the same basic functionality. There were only a few tools developers could employ when creating an Apple TV channel. Content channels like HBO and Netflix look and function completely different on tvOS. This may cause some cognitive dissonance, but I expect Apple to enforce their Human Interface Guidelines for App Store submissions. The new Netflix design doesn’t look all that different from the existing Apple TV Netflix channel. The top marquee backgrounds were introduced to Apple TV a few years ago. HBO NOW does offer a different look. Their new tvOS app resembles their iOS app. It’s a smart way to unify the user experience across devices.
tvOS is missing many features one would expect. Apple has an advantage in that they control all of the products in their ecosystem. They are usually great at system integration, but this seems to be missing in Apple TV 4 and tvOS. For example, when you get a call on your iPhone, it won’t show up on your Apple TV. Most digital cable boxes can do this, as long as the subscriber uses cable phone service. This feature is available on both the iPad and Macintosh.
It would also be nice to see Reminders, Notifications, Calendar and other stock apps integrated into the Apple TV experience. For example, you could schedule a Calendar event or Reminder for a TV show or sporting event, and Apple TV could prompt you to start watching. Some cable TV boxes have offered this feature for years.
Being able to browse the web with Safari would be another great addition. Users could play web-based videos without reaching for their iPhone. Third party developers will likely offer apps that accomplish many of these tasks. You can browse the web on Apple TV right now, using the AirWeb app for iOS. In theory, one could even use a word processor app to create documents with a Bluetooth keyboard. Unfortunately, Apple would have to offer AirPrint APIs to enable printing. I doubt they will see Apple TV as platform for document editing or office tasks.
I expect some of these features and apps to be added in later releases. It’s hard to cut Apple some slack when these useful pieces are missing. They had years to work on Apple TV 4 and tvOS, while their competitors released most of this same functionality years ago. I expected something more, given all the time they had. Apple usually leapfrogs the competition. Apple TV 4 is actually deficient in some respects when compared to the Nvidia Shield.
Tim Cook stated that the future of television is apps. Actually, it is the present of television, as Amazon Fire TV and the Android TV ecosystem have offered apps for a few years. Apple TV is not a revolution, but an evolution. Given that the Apple customer is lucrative for developers, I expect Apple TV to offer industry-leading apps. But let’s not get delusional and claim this is revolutionary, when others have offered these features for years. Don’t drink the keynote Kool-Aid.
Apple TV is not just for watching videos. It is now a fully functional gaming platform. The games demoed at the keynote were quite impressive, with stunning and smooth graphics. Apple does have unique capabilities in this area, offering Metal and other APIs that enable superior graphics performance. Apple TV 4 should offer smoother gaming with better graphics than competing units.
High end games will be developed in Objective C and use Metal, instead of using managed code like Java. Java is getting better, but developers still have no control over memory allocation. That’s important when performance is critical. Also, Apple designs the hardware to work specifically with the operating system. This tight integration provides better performance on comparable hardware. (continue…)