‘Bout Time Apple TV Stopped Being a Hobby

This is a guest post by my buddy & fellow Apple enthusiast, Rohan Naravane.

Over the years, Apple’s current and former CEO have been quoted referring to Apple TV as a “hobby” for the consumer electronics giant. Apple TV, if you don’t know already, is a tiny box that connects to your television and can stream audio-visual content from the iTunes store and can also mirror your Apple iOS devices and Macs wirelessly. It is a worthy buy for a 100 dollars if you’re one with the Apple ecosystem, but is brimming with potential to do a lot more. Right now, rumours afloat suggest Apple making deals to serve more variety of content and will announce them on the 22nd October event. That’s nice and all, but I’d rather have something that was universally applicable — not just the US. And like any informed customer, I will tend to look at what else is available for $99 and whether those devices will serve my needs better.

For that price, there’s Ouya — an Android-based game microconsole that has gotten average reviews and the PlayStation Vita TV — which isn’t available in all regions yet. Nonetheless, they both have things that I’d want out of my $99 TV box. Ouya’s games store also features apps like Plex that I love so dearly; as content from the Plex Media Server (i.e. my computer) is automatically transcoded and streamed over-the-air to the receiver device. Imagine your entire movie and TV show library; instantly playable on your television while your computer sits in the other room. Plex does it beautifully too — pulling artwork, synopsis, ratings and showing details about the source file. Then there’s the PS Vita TV that brings titles from Sony’s popular handheld console to the big screen (to be played with a separately purchasable Bluetooth Controller).

I can’t wait for Apple to unlock the greater potential of the Apple TV that could possibly unlock many of these functionalities. Although Apple TV’s software is based on iOS, there’s no app store like other iOS devices. Having one would enable Plex and a million other apps to flex the function of the Apple TV beyond what Apple offers out-of-the-box. And speaking of hardware, it would probably need a beefier chip than its current ageing single-core A5 chip to run modern day apps and games well. Lastly, Apple has already introduced Bluetooth controller support with iOS 7. With this support extended to Apple TV, a typical wireless controller will serve a new way to experience those fantastic iOS-based games on the big screen.

It feels like we’re almost there; to a point where it is getting irritating as we wait for Apple to push this product to the next level. To my disappointment, it is unlikely that Apple will announce a majorly overhauled Apple TV product tomorrow. Maybe they’re taking their time because one big piece of the puzzle is yet unsolved — the User Interface. Currently, because of its simplicity the Apple TV is usable via the bundled IR remote or the barebones Remote app on an iOS device. But bringing the App Store may require a sea change to the current form of user interaction. There are rumours of Apple trying the gesture-based interactivity like the one possible with Xbox 360’s Kinect accessory. Whatever the method, it could finally reveal a part of what Steve Jobs had told Walter Isaacson in his biography about Televisions and its User Interface — “I finally cracked it.”

Rohan Naravane manages the content for PriceBaba.com. He is usually found rambling tech on Twitter @r0han.