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.