AppleTV 2 breaks free from the PC, remains under Apple's lock and key

AppleTV 2 breaks free from the PC, remains under Apple's lock and keyIn Steve Jobs’ mind, version 1 of the AppleTV failed to resonate with consumers because of its slavish reliance on the PC.

At last year’s D: Conference, when downgrading the device to the company’s “hobby”, Jobs told Walt Mossberg: “Coming from the PC market you first think about getting content from your PC to your living-room. I’m not sure that’s really what most consumers want”.

With AppleTV “take 2”, the chains are off so to speak. No longer does the device require the use of a computer to download and manage content (although it can still access media stored on a PC), and is instead capable of fetching content directly from the Internet– movie rentals; film, TV and music purchases; podcasts; and photos.

But aside from Apple-sanctioned access: the company’s own iTunes Store and .Mac service, podcasts, Flickr and YouTube — the AppleTV remains under lock and key, closed to third-party developers and web services, and subsequently unable to pull in additional content from elsewhere on the net.

Giving the AppleTV independence from the PC is a step in the right direction. However, to truly liberate the device, Apple should release a Software Development Kit (SDK) like it plans to do for the iPhone. That way, third-parties would be able to legitimately develop and sell software plug-ins for the AppleTV, that can deliver additional functionality and give access to a wider range of Internet content.

For starters: think widgets (a la Dashboard) for your TV (weather, stocks, news headlines and sports scores), or access to web-based music services (Last.FM, Pandora etc.), or video sites other than YouTube (Veoh or Hulu).

Additionally, an SDK would enable third-parties to develop hardware that tightly integrates with the AppleTV, addressing shortcoming such as the lack of a TV tuner or DVR functionality.

Of course, opening up the AppleTV would give users access to content destinations that compete directly with the iTunes Store, something Apple seems reluctant to do.

What applications and functionality would you like to see come to the AppleTV? Or, by freeing the device from the PC, has Apple already done enough?

last100 is edited by Steve O'Hear. Aside from founding last100, Steve is co-founder and CEO of Beepl and a freelance journalist who has written for numerous publications, including TechCrunch, The Guardian, ZDNet, ReadWriteWeb and Macworld, and also wrote and directed the Silicon Valley documentary, In Search of the Valley. See his full profile and disclosure of his industry affiliations.

5 Responses to “AppleTV 2 breaks free from the PC, remains under Apple's lock and key”

  1. dig says:

    I think you are 100% correct in this. They have simply opened it up to one particular store a few photo sharing sites. Still a step in the right direction as we already love version 1.0.

  2. JP says:

    The ultimate device: aTV plus EyeTV.

  3. David Mackey says:

    Yeah, they need to open the AppleTV up. What about when I want to watch some of the shows available directly through the channels’ site – or utilize Joost/Hulu?

  4. Take a look at the AwkwardTV website:

    I use Sapphire on my AppleTV to stream divx and xvid movies from my home NAS. It takes a bit of work to get all of the workarounds in place for it to work.

    Alan Quartermain has released a Backrow developers kit that works for both Frontrow and AppleTV, and there are a handful of existing plugins out there, some even open source projects.

    The AppleTV has a LOT of potential, and I agree that there are some very cool possibilities out there. I would love to see a native smb,ssh, and divx codec compatibility built in, (but what would the movie studios think about that?). Don’t think Apple is going to be opening it up anytime soon as far as codec compatibility goes.

  5. Hi, Steve. I get your point. Apple TV has a great potential as a platform for 3rd party developers. Of course, it is entirely up to Apple to open it up.

    Not sure if you read my article I wrote a while back on “Repurposing the Apple TV” ( It shows you what kind of applications might be available on the Apple TV if there was an SDK for it.

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