December 12, 2016

Apple Nailed It – How Television is Changing

Apple - tvOS

Before his passing Steve Jobs said of TV “I finally cracked it”. Jobs’ statement elicited wild speculation about integrated television sets controlled by special rings that the user would wear, but at the core I think that he was talking about something much simpler. Apple just released an update to tvOS that introduces a new way to organize content, it’s this application that I think Steve was referring to when he claimed to have finally cracked it.

 TV App

The new TV App provides a single place for all of your content, the old “Home” button has become the “Up Next” button and will bring you immediately to your content queue. I enjoyed the AppleTV before this update, but always found searching through Netflix, HBO, Hulu, and the network apps to be a little painful. Now that the TV App is here all of the content across sources have been collected in one clean view.

Along with content aggregation the TV app provides recommendations based on what is currently popular and along several genres. I hope this content gets more and more personalized as the platform matures.

Single Sign-on

One of the largest gripes I’ve had since purchasing my first AppleTV was the way I had to sign in to network Apps (ABC, NBC, etc…). Signing in generally involved visiting a web site from my desktop, entering a code, then signing in to my cable provider. 50% of the time the sign in would fail and I’d have to start over. It was a major source of pain, especially when authorization would be lost and I’d have to go through it again. The process stops me from watching anything in the network Apps (including their advertisements).

With the latest version of tvOS Apple has introduced the idea of Single Sign-on, it basically allows you to sign-on once and be authorized automatically for future sign-on attempts. Sadly, this feature doesn’t work with my provider yet, but I hear it’s great. Looking forward to the day that Brighthouse extends support.

Siri Integration

Siri has always been a part of the latest generation AppleTV, but it (she?) has really come into its own with the latest update. The TV App is pulling together content from across all available sources and Siri is now able to intelligently return results. I haven’t had a chance to really give this feature a workout yet, but so far it has been a great way to ask for Christmas movies and see what’s out there.

What’s Next?

I don’t think that we’re seeing anything revolutionary with this update, but it is a well designed experience where one did not exist. I think that’s where Apple really shines. Mobile phones were around before the iPhone, but the iPhone feature set changed what users expected from a mobile, I think we’re seeing the same thing with television.

I expect that Apple will continue to work with the networks to get great apps onto the device and make sure that users have access to all of the content that they would from their cable providers. DirecTV Now already provides access to most of what you can get with a cable subscription, it’s only a matter of time before other providers follow suit. I hope to see HomeKit support continue to grow as more and more devices become connected by default and would love to see some home intelligence rolled in. It’s definitely an exciting time.