Regarding an Apple TV App Store

Regarding and Apple TV App Store

You'll hear a lot more discussion of this at the tail end of tonights iPhone & iPad Live podcast with Seth Clifford of Nickelfish and David Barnard of App Cubby, but as rumors are spreading that WWDC 2012 might bring with it an "App Store" for Apple TV, I wanted to get something up on the site about it as well.

Issues involving the navigation of large app quantities on a TV, the limitations of the current remote, and Siri control aside, I'm having a hard time seeing an Apple TV "App Store" in the same sense as the existing iPhone and iPad App Store. .

There are 600,000 plus apps on the iOS App Store and a lot of them just don't make sense on a TV.

iPhones, iPods, and iPads are personal devices. TVs are social devices. On an iPhone or iPad, I can be watching a show or a game, and a notification can come up, and I can switch away to handle it, and I can come back to my show or game when I'm ready.

If I'm watching a show or game on my TV and I switch away to check a web link or answer a tweet ("Wow, did you see how GSP ended that fight?!"), I'm going to get punched by the friend or family member next to me. If a friend or family member switches away to Facebook or Messages ("Has he left yet baby? Can I come over?"), they're getting punched. (In a figurative, loving, non-violent, hurts-like-hell-in-the-shoulder way, I swear.)

That kind of activity is also unnecessary, because we have iPhones, iPods, and iPads, and those secondary and tertiary screens let us do personal things like message or research, while watching TV, without impacting the other people watching TV. They also let us share anything we come across via AirPlay.

Media apps like the already present Netflix makes sense on an Apple TV. NBC, BBC, HBO, Disney, etc. would all make sense there. As channels. Having them in a "Store" with subscriptions makes more sense than just putting them all onto the screen, since the new Apple TV UI doesn't seem elegant even under the existing app load.

Twitter doesn't. Elements doesn't. Arguably even Safari and maybe even games make more sense as a phone or tablet apps that AirPlay can share with the Apple TV, than as a stand-alone apps on Apple TV. (And boy is the concept of automatic, AirPlay-triggered 10-foot UI for existing apps interesting.)

Moreover, even if Apple TV sales double this year, at 6 million units sold they'd still be nothing but a hobby compared to iPhone and iPad sales. Apple operates the current App Store at just above break even in order to have software sales fuel hardware sales. If they reversed that cheap-blades-to-sell-expensive-razors strategy and went to a more traditional cheap-razors-to-sell-expensive-blades model, dealing with the collective pains in the asses that comprise media companies just for a cut of subscription revenue doesn't seem worth the effort for Apple. The ROI just doesn't seem as high as the existing iOS hardware business.

There are a lot of to-be-announced (TBA) sessions on the WWDC schedule this year, and that has some very smart people like John Gruber thinking they may be filled with Apple TV API sessions. And maybe they will.

However, in the risky game of Apple predictions, I think it far more likely they'll be filled with iOS 6 and OS X Mountain Lion sessions instead. Or as Matt Panzarino from The Next Web suggested, an Apple TV/Siri/Facebook combo platter.

Developers will go where the money and market is, and right now everything is eclipsing the living room.

If there is an App Store for Apple TV, I'm guessing it would be far, far more limited in scope, and in accessibility than the iPhone and iPad App Stores. At least at first.

The Apple TV 1080p debuted as little more than a peripheral for the new iPad back in March. Apple may see something in the TV market that encourages them to keep the hobby going, but it's tough to see an iPhone and iPad style App Store being that. It's easier to see Apple thinking something just a little different.

Have something to say about this story? Leave a comment! Need help with something else? Ask in our forums!

Rene Ritchie

EiC of iMore, EP of Mobile Nations, Apple analyst, co-host of Debug, Iterate, Vector, Review, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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Reader comments

Regarding an Apple TV App Store


I doubt we'll see any games for the Apple TV since there isn't enough disk space on it.
If there is an Apple TV API at WWDC, I get the impression that there will be something else that is far more important coming out of this than just apps. It could be a gaming controller, a big update in features to Airplay or the "control out" feature that is rumored by BGR.

AppleTv channels, monthly fees per network, currently networks get a fraction of what the cable companies collect, AppleTv channels could double that by eliminating the cable companies... Sire powered house, think AirPrint API's for appliances wifi enabled.... Wifi enabled Wifi outlets and switches...its limitless

It is very strictly limited by the bandwidth to the home, bandwidth often provided by those very same cable companies. Already we see cablecos count Netflix videos against their bandwidth caps, exempt their own on-demand programming, and somehow claim they still follow net neutrality principles.
Unless Apple becomes not just a champion of net neutrality, but somehow is able to arm twist governments and/or cabelcos, there is little reason to believe those cablecos won't apply the same chokehold to Apple if they see an Apple TV system as a thread to their revenues.

Great article Rene. As for managing huge numbers of apps on a non-touch screen, it's as easy as "Siri, show me all TV channel apps." Or "Siri, show me all movie streaming apps." Etc. (Or at least it could be.)
Re: If there is an App Store for Apple TV, I'm guessing it would be far, far more limited in scope, and in accessibility than the iPhone and iPad App Stores. At least at first.
Agree. iOS has app-ified the web. And it could app-ify the television experience the same way. But it'll have to be done gradually. And we'd guess that there won't be a Safari "TV edition." WebTV and GoogleTV did that and failed. least until Samuel L Jackson appears on the screen, says "Siri", and your TV looks up gaspacho.
Or tries to, but answers something totally different.

Re: * Apple may see something in the TV market that encourages them to keep the hobby going, but it's tough to see an iPhone and iPad style App Store being that. *
Many of Tim Cook's statements at D10 (and before) can be interpreted in multiple contexts. For example: the "toaster and refrigerator" anti-convergence statement. The most obvious context for that is the two different non-overlapping worlds of iOS and OS X. The small + touch-screen + mobile world vs. large + mouse/keyboard + stationary world. Apple has kept them separate but has made them co-exist fairly smoothly. Microsoft is trying to mash those worlds together in Windows RT somehow.
But another context for the "toaster and refrigerator" non-convergence statement is the television concept vs. the iOS mobile device concept vs. the legacy desktop / laptop PC concept. But this is getting too long for a comment. We'll try to expand the thought in the forums ASAP.

I don't know maybe if it does have kinect like sensors then this made available to developers then we could see kinect games coming to tv

Not sure what you mean by your comment, but my ATV links to my iTunes Match which is in the Cloud. It streams my iTunes library from cloud.

You are looking at things wrong. TVs are social devices today. However with Apple leading the charge to socialization through personal technology interfaces, TVs will become individual devices. There will be no need to physically be with people.
I'm only half joking here. Because sadly, that is becoming the reality. The art of personal socialization is being lost to technology at an alarming rate.

I'd say to determine what sort of apps one would like on an Apple TV would be to compare it to the types of things that you can do with a jailbroken ATV running XBMC

Instead of an "AppStore" I want a TV equivalent of "NewsStand" - I would love the ability to ala carte buy 'subscriptions' to the channels I want to watch instead of being force-fed a selection of channels by a cable provider.

All I want is my Google+ (nee PicasaWeb) app alongside my YouTube app so I can share my photos with family around the world. My elderly dad loves watching videos of his grandchildren on his TV in his den.

Admittedly, I didn't read this whole article, but I submit this. The "channels" on a Roku behave in many ways like an app. I can tweet, check Facebook, even send sms through Google voice. By no means is it open to every app under the sun, but it really shouldn't be.
Specifically speaking, I would love an app store...conversly I would love the ability to uninstall some of the bloat on the ATV2...Vimeo? Never opened it.

How about they add the iTunes music store before an app store? I can't believe as an iTunes Match subscriber that I can't purchase music on the device, even if it has no built in storage space.
As for apps, third parties ought to be able to add their players and I'd like to be able to remove players I'm not using (e.g. Netflix). BBC iPlayer and other equivalents would be an obvious win for UK users but where's the storage space for app files? I can't imagine there's much they can add except via a cloud system.

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