In 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?