March 26, 2014
Apple Speculation Time
We’re quickly approaching WWDC (if you can quickly approach something with no date, of course), and while I usually resign from speculation until I hear it from the horse’s mouth, I think I have a wildly good idea that’s worth some documenting, if only to be able to say I told you so.
Famous last words. So, here’s the world I want to live in
Apple TV Apps
One of my biggest gripes with the AppleTV is that it lives on an island unto itself. For the last two years, I’ve hoped against hope for an SDK to write apps for it, but the best Apple has delivered was the ability to do some fairly sophisticated second-screen stuff with it. But, I want it to stand on it’s own. And I think this is the year they do it.
Some of the early CarPlay info and videos that have gotten out show the iPhone being a brain with an external display. I think this can be extended to the AppleTV. When an iPhone with AppleTV apps is on network, they’ll become available to the AppleTV, and can be controlled via remote or iPhone/iPad that hosts them. It’s an extension of the current second-screen model, but with a more native experience and presence on the home screen. Discovery can be done via Bonjour broadcasting, and the new Xcode Assets can be expanded for a rectangular icon. Done.
But I don’t think that’s what they’ll do. One more stop, though.
Tighter AppleTV/iPhone Integration
So the apps for AppleTV will live on the phone. But that’s a two-way street. The AppleTV will be aware of iPhones nearby and interact more with them. Get a phone call while you’re watching a movie? The movie pauses. FaceTime call? Video on the big screen, full screen camera on the small. Text or other notifications will pop up on the top left, a la Mountain Lion/Mavericks Notification Center.
The integration with Pebble posting notifications suggests that apple has a bus suitable for shuttling notifications around and off the iPhone. Networking between the two is super easy with wifi, but why not leverage some silent Multipeer Connectivity between the two and leverage Bluetooth in the absence of wifi or a complex network. Then all Apple needs to do is create a UI for displaying notifications, which can’t be that hard – it’s just a nice UIView over the window.
If that was all, that’d be enough for me. But, there’s one more bit of glue needed to make this all work seamlessly, and Apple already invented it.
So, if you’ve only got one AppleTV, then it’s no problem to communicate between it and your iPhone. But what if you have two, or three, or more? The latest generation of AppleTV could be configured via BTLE if an iPhone was placed on it. Why not extend that chip to be a proper beacon? Once you’ve given the iPhone permission to connect to the AppleTV, all you need to do is approach it for beacon monitoring and ranging to wake up iOS and toggle your experiences to the TV. Plus, you’ve got Bluetooth on for this to work, so a safe, available channel is ready for the two devices to talk via Multipeer Connectivity, should they be on different networks. This would even potentially allow guests to do the same — maybe giving Apple a reason to revive iTunes DJ.
Oh, and All The Cool Kids are Doing It
AppleTV has some real competition finally – the Chromecast. Cheap and powerful, it lets Android users send some things to their TV with “it just works” level of ease. AppleTV has the major advantage of mirroring, but Chromecast allows for development against, which is also pretty powerful. If the AppleTV is really an iPhone with HDMI out (as it’s guts are rumored to be), there’s no excuse to not let us have a modified UIKit specially for the picture tube.
So, Will it Happen?
Well, I don’t know. I’m not psychic, though I wish I was. But looking at what Apple is doing today or has technology to support, they certainly could. Most importantly, it will solve my problem of pausing a movie when my phone rings, which is really all I want. That, and to write a Flappy Bird level app for AppleTV, or at least port my last project from an iPad to AppleTV, because that’d be the perfect venue.