Apple TV as a smart home hub? I think not

Apple TV
Apple TV

It's once again rumored that Apple is working on making its set-top box, Apple TV, into an Amazon Echo-like device with a speaker and microphone.

From VentureBeat:

Apple has considered several options — turning the existing Apple TV into a more comprehensive assistant, making the Apple TV's Siri Remote the key device, or even building a standalone speaker just like Echo. Ultimately, the third option was dropped, given how much money Apple has spent on the development of Apple TV.

Sure, it's possible that Apple's research and development department looked into the idea, maybe even drew up some designs. But, it would be a bad—no, terrible—idea for Apple to turn its set-top box into a smart home hub.

Apple TV... for the TV

Apple TV is for the television set. While the average household may have three TV sets (Nielsen report, circa 2010), it isn't likely that they are in the dining room, kitchen, garage, bathroom—you get the idea. Apple TV currently has to be hardwired to your TV in order to work. So, unless wireless HDMI suddenly becomes a real thing, and is retrofitted onto all existing TV sets, Apple TV has to stay next to your television.

That means it's not portable—not like Amazon's Echo or Goggle's Home. So, when you're in the kitchen making dinner and want to ask Siri how to brown butter, chances are your Apple TV won't be in the same room as you.

Apple TV also currently turns on or off when you turn your TV set on or off. In order for it to be a true home hub, Apple TV would have to stay on all the time, even when the TV is off. That makes sense for a small hub-like device. Less so for a set top box.

Also, many people just bought a new Apple TV. Having to buy another one so soon just to get home hub support would be frustrating. And if it isn't coming soon, that would be just as frustrating.

That's why it feels like Apple TV would be less than ideal as a competitor with the Echo or Home.

Home is where the hub is

What I can believe, however, is that Apple is advancing its efforts to make the Apple TV better. The unnamed sources that said Apple is turning its set-top box into a smart home hub also said that the company is planning to add a Siri SDK to make it possible for third-party developers to make use of the virtual assistant. It was also mentioned that Apple TV will integrate with the HomeKit framework.

It would be fantastic if the Apple TV was compatible with HomeKit and with the home hub, when it launches. Using the Siri Remote to dim the lights or lock the front door would be a perfect fit for the Apple TV. That, to me, makes much more sense than making Apple TV the home hub.

I'd love something like Amazon Echo from Apple. I just don't want it bound to my TV. I want the option to have it anywhere and everywhere in my home.

Lory is a renaissance woman, writing news, reviews, and how-to guides for iMore. She also fancies herself a bit of a rock star in her town and spends too much time reading comic books.  If she's not typing away at her keyboard, you can probably find her at Disneyland or watching Star Wars (or both).

  • Apple needs to fix the reliability problems before it can be used for other things.
    I need to reboot it every time I try to use Netflix.
    Wake up apple tv -- go to Netflix -- error. Force quit nexflix -- try again -- error
    Reboot Atv -- go to Netflix -- happiness
  • Yep. Pretty much. I do feel like it's a beta product still. I still like it being in the apple ecosystem and all but much of it is half baked. Siri remains unused. Remote is in a drawer. Back to the harmony.
  • Sounds like its your unit, might be worth doing a reset. Ive had none of those issues and use netflix daily on it. Sent from the iMore App
  • I disagree about everything here pretry much. It is not a bad idea, just add mics and speakers and it would also work! People wouldn't be furious unless they are each time a new idevice comes put and anyways a new apple tv or a echo like device they would have to buy something again if they want it. At least, it would be one device for both Sent from the iMore App
  • Sorry, but the article author is spot on. For those of us that have homes where the TV is nowhere near a Kitchen, a bedroom, a den, what-have-you, the Apple TV solution would just tie down and limit the usefulness of the product. In order to be ubiquitous in the home, it needs to be separated from the TV. This comes from someone who has an Echo (waiting for the Dot to arrive) and 2 ATV's.
  • I see! You have a point but wherever you put this device will limit you in other rooms... May be apple can put that in their AirPort machine... Sent from the iMore App
  • I agree! The location of my Apple TV wouldn't be helpful to me at all. I'm hoping they make a little box that looks like a small replica of the original colorful iMacs.
  • If it has a speaker who cares if its in a room without a tv?? It wouldnt need it. You dont need to use every feature just because it can. Sent from the iMore App
  • Then you really don't understand what these assistants can do and the value add of being located in an area where they bring the most value. Sent from the iMore App
  • Then you really don't understand what im saying.
    Just because it has tv abilities desnt mean it has to be connected to a tv. If it has its own speaker, put it where you want and use those features.
  • Why is it that iMore is so against options? Why shouldn't Apple TV have the OPTION of being a smart hub? Put a mic and speaker in the remote and you take that around the house. The living room is very much the hub of many people's homes, so it makes sense for the Apple TV to be a hub.
  • I would love it as an option when purchasing an Apple TV, those who don't want it don't have to us it.
  • The Apple TV4 has massive processing power that goes unused for most of the day unless you watch TV more than a few hours of an evening. It also has BT4LE and wifi 802.11ac and is almost always in powered or standby mode. "All" Apple has to do is produce a low cost BT or Wifi sub-unit with mic and speakers that "understands" the Siri/ViV/VocalIQ API and that can be positioned anywhere in a house near power and there you have your Apple AI at anyplace and anytime.
    No brainer.