Apple TV, Halo Effects and Apps

One week in with the New AppleTV, and I can definitely say that the Living Room is a great environment for Native Apps.

Let me be clear. The notion of an App Store and an Existing Ecosystem of Apps that can readily be transported from iPhone to iPad to Apple TV is a big deal.

After all, there are 1M apps for iPhone, many which have a logical analog to the big screen in the living room.

My biggest question had been whether the horsepower and iOS runtime capabilities of the Apple TV would allow for “real” apps.

As a geekoid fan of NBA2K on the iPad, and someone who’s built a bunch of apps for iPhones and iPads, I can comfortably assert that as a software platform for Developers, iOS sets a really high bar, yielding a wide range of ‘wow factor’ experiences. If Apple TV could approach that, then the living room could be a more vibrant ground for software innovation than even the tablet. Sorry, iPad.

But, based on what we’ve seen with Roku, Chromecast, Amazon Fire TV, and the earlier-gen Apple TV, the New Apple TV **may** have stopped at delivering better and more varied video and audio channels. It may have been satisfied to deliver a better screen saver (it does), and one click access to your photo libraries, but then only enabled “meh” level access to the core platform capabilities in iOS.

But, what I discovered is that the New Apple TV is powered by the A8 chip with 64-bit architecture, the same chip that powered iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, and iPad mini 4. It also has 2 GB of RAM, double what was packed into the iPhones, so the ‘bones’ are there.

Then I downloaded the Free-To-Play game Asphalt 8: Airborne, and became a true believer. It’s a natural, tactile experience that is really enjoyable on a big screen. The Accelerometer aware remote is really cool, making the remote a full-on sensory controller.

(A note aside, I can’t see any reason Apple wouldn’t offer a mode where people could use their iPhones as controllers. This would make spontaneous multi-player activities more friction-less.)

Cool Sequences with Accelerometer Action is great on a Big Screen

Then, there is Siri. Siri is a new interface in the Apple TV. Apple has implemented it in a few places (movie searches, playback controls, lite info searches), but it’s very natural to use, and I believe Apple has a strong path ahead with Siri in the living room.

Already, the notion of talking to Siri and expecting something purpose-based to get done — Getting Directions, Playing a Song, Sending a Text — is expected and natural for a growing base of iPhone and iPad users.

If Apple opens up Siri to developers, I can imagine all sorts of autonomous services popping up, from ordering food, to getting sports updates, playing fantasy sports, and getting a lift to the airport.

I would totally order my Uber, and take joy inseeing the screen toggle between playing a game like Asphalt 8 and switching to the Map View when my Uber is close.

The moral of the story is that Apple has created a serious Halo Effect for themselves, and it’s no accident.

They have been very discipined in rolling the iOS platform out, and now they are rolling in to your Living Room, and the early results are very promising.

The (Second) Greatest Unintentional Head Fake?

Yeah, I know the story is supposed to be that Apple was planning to deliver the Cable set-top box to beat all set-top boxes, as was the case with iPhone, and what it did to our concept of the Smart Phone.

Because this is TV, lots of content deals were required with the key networks (ABC, CBS, Comcast, etc.), each leery of being outflanked by Apple, but facing increasingly complex economics.

Cord Cutters, for example, are compelling ESPN to perform a multitude of unnatural acts around their product, their talent and their business model.

For many services, though, the idea of offering their channel ala carte (e.g., HBO Now), or as a compliment to existing, verified Cable and Satellite customers is a no brainer since they are already on iPhone and iPad.

Nonetheless, until **enough** of these folks cast their lot with Apple, Apple can’t deliver the so-called the Skinny Package that breaks the Cartel Bundle.

But Apple, has a trick up it’s sleeve, and it’s Apps.

I’d note two looming questions here, though. One is what will be the size of the base of units out there for software developers to decide whether to port their apps to Apple TV.

There are like a billion iOS devices out there. If Apple TV is selling 10M units, will that be enough to drive developers, and will it be easy enough to port a developer’s Sibling App to its Apple TV Derivative?

Two is whether Apple might tinker with App Store Economics, such as setting higher minimum prices for Apps. This might enable more developers to make the economics work if Apple TV installed base is a fraction of that of iPhone, or if porting is more than a short exercise (to at least get a 1.0 product out).

My money is on Apple figuring this one out, and Apple talking about Apple TV as a ‘hobby’ no more.