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Apple TV relaunched. Will hobby grow to the main product category?

by Radek Sukala

Apple TV is a “must have” relaunch for this holiday season. As the Google TV concept was released before the summer, Apple needed to reply. With articles about Google TV flooding all tech news before Apple’s iPhone 4 reveal, I think that Apple made a controlled leak, and in late spring, Engadget brought news about the new Apple TV possibly being a hit with the form factor size of iPod Touch, built-in iOS, and price dropping to $99.

Most importantly, news of the built-in iOS was a real wake-up call for our imagination. We immediately took to solving the problem of how to the develop apps for “until now the last offline display” in ours households. This concept looks great, however, how do I control touch-controlled apps on a big screen that is far from me? With a price below 100 bucks, it seems impossible to bring Apple TV with a multitouch Bluetooth controller. Moreover, iOS apps need to see what I touch to control them. Of course you can use one of 100 millions sold iOS devices to control Apple TV, it is not for every user though.

Steve Jobs introduced Apple TV 2

I was not sure how iOS would look like on Apple TV, however, after its yesterday’s reveal it is clear. There is still no easy way to open Apple TV in App Store, which is a little disappointing. Nevertheless, we need to remember that even a company hit like iPhone requires a year and a half to open the App Store and start an app revolution. Apple knows best that apps are the gold keys which open product uniqueness, and as Apple lost its battle with Microsoft decades ago with not enough apps on Macintosh, it will not make the same mistake again. Even if all mobile OS  have stores with music, movies and books, it will be easier to offer the same as Apple. The situation is different with apps. The developer community needs years to grow and the race involving 250k apps for iPhone and 25k apps for iPad has been almost lost to other platforms than Android.

Apps are the blood in all gadgets of today, because without them they are just black boxes. Apple will definitely find out later how to involve developers into Apple TV.

I think that Apple has already made its biggest step, even if it may not looks so. It revealed Air Play, which I see as the biggest invention since the September 1st event. When Apple opens AirPlay not just for video output from apps but even for games, magazines, news apps, Apple TV will become a hit over a night. There are 120 million iOS devices hungry to stream their content to a bigger screen. How competitive to console games could be with respect to games which will use iPod Touch or iPhone as a controller and your big LCD as a output? And with a price tag between 99 cents and $10? What if there are more iOS devices for more players? There would be more fun.

AirPlay could be the missing bridge showing how to bring App Store to Apple TV and turn it into a hit. The price of Apple TV is so good that if just 120 million iOS users take it as a must have accessory to their beloved devices, Apple will definitely shift from hobby to mainstream in our living room. I am looking forward to see what the developers can do with their apps on a 50″ LCD.