While hardcore smart home enthusiasts may be disappointed with today's lack of HomeKit news at Apple's fall product unveil event, those who have been awaiting a new Apple TV finally got the box they've been waiting for.
And by that, I mean we all got the Apple TV we've all envisioned for some time: A Siri-enabled remote with touch pad and motion sensing, a box running on top of a fork of iOS for TV called tvOS, an app store, and a native SDK for app developers that's already available in beta - it's what many of us envisioned for Apple TV since the beginning and now we finally have it.
The new OS, app store and SDK are the biggest of the upgrades. Up until this point, Apple TV has largely been something that existed outside of the iOS universe, an oddball half-cousin that didn't quite fit in at the Apple family get-togethers, but now we have a device that will finally tap into the collective creativity of third party app developers like the rest of its extended family and that is something to be very excited about.
I wrote an admittedly early report a few years ago on the TV app revolution, and in that report much of the assumptions I made around the market had to do with whether or not Apple would finally bring iOS app development for third party app developers to Apple TV.
Two years later we finally have that, and while it took a while, what I envisioned then - a new set of interesting apps that tap into the capabilities of Apple core features like Siri, developer toolsets and interaction with other iOS devices - is finally here.
While the early apps are just what you would expect - the usual 'early partners' like Netflix, Hulu, HBO - there are some peaks at what is possible beyond just TV. While I might not be a Gilded customer, the Gilded app is one of the most interesting because it hints at maybe a new wave of TV-commerce apps that might become available now through the revamped Apple TV. The games are also pretty basic, but perhaps in a not-so-small shot across Nintendo's bow, Apple introduced a new title called Beat Sports, which looks and feels an awful lot like Wii Sports.
Sure, the Wii seems almost like a gaming antique at this point, but the box's ability to tap into the previously somewhat neglected casual gaming market with that title was revolutionary for its time, particularly with the then-innovative use of Wii motion sensing remotes. With Beat Sports and the ability to use iOS devices as controllers, we might see another wave of new casual gamers taking to the Apple TV as their casual game box of choice.
As for smart home integration, while there was no mention of HomeKit, early reports indicate that the new device was going to act as a HomeKit hub and I suspect that will likely still be the case. The box has Bluetooth 4.0 as well as Wi-Fi, and I suspect it likely has all the necessary HomeKit intelligence built in since tvOS is essentially an iOS fork. Apple's clearly holding off on making any new HomeKit news right now, and when the time is right we'll hear more about how the new TV box fits into the HomeKit universe (likely at CES or soon thereafter).
In the meantime, it will be interesting to watch to see if any HomeKit partners choose to make an Apple TV app for their devices, in the way many have started to embrace Apple Watch to create optimized smart home experiences for Apple's new wearable.
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