Posts tagged with "apple tv"

A Recap of the Code Media Conference Interview with Eddy Cue

Last night Recode's Peter Kafka hosted an interview with Apple's Eddy Cue, SVP of Internet Software and Services, who was joined by television producer Ben Silverman at Recode's Code Media Conference. The discussion centered around Apple's video ambitions, with new information and trailers being released for two of Apple's upcoming original shows: Planet of the Apps and Carpool Karaoke. Additionally, Cue commented on work Apple's doing with Apple Music and in a variety of other areas.

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Apple Increases tvOS App Size Limit to 4 GB

Nice change for tvOS app developers announced today by Apple:

The size limit of a tvOS app bundle has increased from 200 MB to 4 GB, so you can include more media in your submission and provide a complete, rich user experience upon installation. Also, tvOS apps can use On-Demand Resources to host up to 20 GB of additional content on the App Store.

On one hand, this prepares the platform for 4K support and larger file sizes in the future, and it makes another step towards legitimizing the Apple TV as a micro-console (in addition to bigger app downloads, developers can also require controllers in their games for tvOS 10).

However, the 64 GB version of the 4th generation Apple TV has been around for over a year now with little explanation from Apple as to why customers would want to spend more for increased storage, and this feels like lifting a limitation because why not.

I'm curious to see what happens now, particularly in terms of game releases on tvOS. This is a welcome change for game developers, but we haven't seen any major tvOS exclusives so far.

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TV App Review

Today Apple released tvOS 10.1 and iOS 10.2, both of which bring several additions to the operating systems. Chief among all additions, the clear centerpiece of these updates is a brand new app called TV. When Tim Cook announced this app onstage earlier this fall, he plainly stated its purpose: TV exists to create a unified TV experience, one place to access all TV shows and movies.

Does it succeed? Is this the best television experience available today?

Before answering those questions, it's important to consider the history of underwhelming television endeavors that brought Apple to this point.

Steve Jobs introduced the first Apple TV set-top box over ten years ago, in September 2006. That product unveiling came at the tail end of a keynote focused on the iPod and iTunes, where Jobs announced the additions of Movies and TV Shows to the iTunes Store. At its birth, the Apple TV was not meant to revolutionize television; it was made to support the iTunes ecosystem Apple was building.

Throughout its first three iterations, the Apple TV was never a hallmark product like the iPod, Mac, or iPhone; it was simply a hobby for the company. It was Apple dipping its toes in the TV market. But the fourth generation Apple TV represented a shift. With modern hardware, a new operating system dubbed tvOS, and a vision that the future of TV is apps, Apple dove full force into the television market. It set out to create the best TV experience possible.

The newly released TV app is a significant step forward in realizing that goal.

TV is intended to address a modern issue. While the future of television may be apps, up until now Apple's implementation of that vision has been lacking; it's been lacking because the more video apps you have, the more navigating it requires to find the content you love. More time navigating means less time watching. TV was built to solve this problem.

The TV app on tvOS and iOS centralizes content from a wide array of video apps in one place, presenting that content in a simple and familiar interface. No one wants to juggle an assortment of video apps, jumping from one app to another to find the content they're looking for. We've all learned to tolerate it, but none of us wants it. So Apple built TV to be the new hub of our video-watching life.

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Single Sign-on Launches for tvOS and iOS

Today Apple launched its new Single Sign-on feature to all devices running version 10 or later of tvOS and iOS. The feature requires no software update or any other user action to get it.

Announced at this year's WWDC, Single Sign-on was originally intended to ship with tvOS 10 in September, but ended up being delayed to later in the fall. The feature, which is available only in the U.S., allows users to enter their TV credentials once to gain access to content their TV plan entitles them to from a variety of video apps like NBC or USA NOW. Its delay was a disappointment to anyone who has experienced the annoyance of repeatedly proving that they pay for cable or satellite service. Now that Single Sign-on has officially arrived, its usefulness depends entirely on whether your TV provider is a launch partner.

Apple has a support page listing the details of which TV providers currently support Single Sign-on, and also which apps support the feature.

TV Providers:

  • CenturyLink Prism
  • DirecTV
  • Dish
  • GVTC
  • GTA
  • Hawaiian Telcom
  • Hotwire
  • MetroCast
  • Sling

Apps:

  • A&E (iOS only)
  • Bravo Now (tvOS only)
  • E! Now (tvOS only)
  • Hallmark Channel Everywhere (iOS and tvOS)
  • History (iOS only)
  • Lifetime (iOS only)
  • NBC (tvOS only)
  • Syfy Now (tvOS only)
  • Telemundo Now (tvOS only)
  • USA NOW (tvOS only)
  • Watch HGTV (iOS and tvOS)
  • Watch Food Network (iOS and tvOS)
  • Watch Cooking Channel (iOS and tvOS)
  • Watch DIY (iOS and tvOS)
  • Watch Travel Channel (iOS and tvOS)

Look for Apple to update these lists in the weeks and months to come as more TV providers and apps come on board.


Apple Releases iBooks StoryTime for Apple TV

iBooks StoryTime, an Apple TV-only app, was released with no announcement by Apple today. Apple explains in the release notes that:

With Read-Aloud narration and beautiful illustrations, every handpicked title in the app transforms Apple TV into an engaging place for young readers to enjoy the stories they love.

iBooks StoryTime comes with a free Dora the Explorer book.

iBooks StoryTime comes with a free Dora the Explorer book.

The app, which comes with a free Dora the Explorer book, is designed for young children. Additional books can be purchased from the Featured Books section of the app. The number of books available is modest, but high-quality with a nice mix of classic children’s books and familiar modern characters.

iBooks StoryTime offers several classics, including Dr. Seuss favorites.

iBooks StoryTime offers several classics, including Dr. Seuss favorites.

The read-aloud feature can be turned on or off. When the feature is on, the book is read by a narrator while the words in the book are highlighted in sync with the narrator’s voice. In read-aloud mode the pages are turned automatically. Pages can also be turned by swiping on the Siri Remote when the read-aloud feature is turned off.

iBooks StoryTime (currently US-only) is a free download on the Apple TV App Store.

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The TV App as a Supporting Actor

Joe Steel makes a good point in his look at this week's Apple TV announcements:

Why is TV the app an app and not the Home screen on the device? It’s obviously modeled after the same ideas that go into other streaming devices that expose content rather than app icons, so why is this a siloed launcher I have to navigate into and out of? Why is this bolted on to the bizarre springboard-like interface of tvOS when it reproduces so much of it?

You could argue that people want to have access to apps that are not for movies or TV shows, but I would suggest that that probably occurs less often and would be satisfied by a button in the TV app that showed you the inane grid of application tiles if you wanted to get at something else.

As I argued yesterday on Connected, I think the new TV app should be the main interface of tvOS – the first thing you see when you turn on the Apple TV. Not a grid of app icons (a vestige of the iPhone), but a collection of content you can watch next.

It's safe to assume that the majority of Apple TV owners turn on the device to watch something. But instead of being presented with a launch interface that highlights video content, tvOS focuses on icons. As someone who loves the simplicity of his Chromecast, and after having seen what Amazon is doing with the Fire TV's Home screen, the tvOS Home screen looks genuinely dated and not built for a modern TV experience.

I think Apple has almost figured this out – the TV app looks like the kind of simplification and content-first approach tvOS needs. But by keeping it a separate app, and by restricting it to US-only at launch, Apple is continuing to enforce the iPhone's Home screen model on every device they make (except the Mac).

That's something the iPad, the Watch1, and the Apple TV all have in common – Home screen UIs lazily adapted from the iPhone. I wish Apple spent more time optimizing the Home screens of their devices for their different experiences.


  1. The Watch is doing slightly better than the other ones thanks to watchOS 3 and its Dock, but the odd honeycomb Home screen is still around, and it doesn't make much sense on the device's tiny screen. ↩︎

Apple Releases the Apple TV Remote App

The Apple TV Remote app, which has been available as part of the iOS 10 developer beta since WWDC, is now available to the general public as a free download in the App Store. The app, which is iPhone-only, approximates the look and functionality of the Siri Remote that comes with the latest generation Apple TV, but with some important differences.

The Apple TV Remote app is a brand-new app. The previous app for controlling the Apple TV, called iTunes Remote, remains on the App Store, but warns that it is not optimized for iOS 10 if you open it on a iPhone running the iOS 10 beta. The top two-thirds of the Apple TV Remote’s screen is dominated by a dark grey rectangular area that is the equivalent of the trackpad on the Siri Remote. A large menu button dominates the space below the trackpad, which lets you step back through levels after drilling down into the Apple TV’s interface. To each side of the menu button are buttons that skip to the previous or next track if you are listening to music, and change to ten-second skip ahead and back buttons if you are watching video.

The bottom row includes a play/pause button, a ‘home’ button that takes you to the Apple TV’s grid of app icons from wherever you are, and a Siri button. A ‘Details’ button also appears in the top right corner of the screen when media is playing that opens a detail view that shows what is currently playing along with a timeline scrubber, a play/pause button, forward and reverse buttons, and shuffle and repeat buttons for music. Because the iPhone includes an accelerometer and gyroscope, the Apple TV Remote can also serve as a game controller for Apple TV games.

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Eddy Cue on Apple TV and Apple Music

Eddy Cue, Apple’s senior vice president of Internet Software and Services sat down with The Hollywood Reporter to talk about Apple TV and Apple Music. In response to questions aimed at understanding Apple’s place in Hollywood and its media ambitions, Cue focused primarily on media distribution and the role Apple can play to improve it for consumers:

The problem with it is the way that we end up consuming it — generally a cable box. A satellite receiver is, to me, nothing more than a glorified VCR. And so I think there's huge opportunities in that space because people now want to watch on their phones, they want to watch on their iPads, and they want to watch on their TVs.

Cue also threw cold water on the notion that Apple is getting into the business of creating TV shows like Netflix, Amazon, and HBO do:

We're not in the business of trying to create TV shows. If we see it being complementary to the things we're doing at Apple Music or if we see it being something that's innovative on our platform, we may help them and guide them and make suggestions. But we're not trying to compete with Netflix or compete with Comcast.

Finally, in comments reminiscent of the interviews with playlist curators at Apple Music published by BuzzFeed yesterday, Cue explained that Apple Music:

… can't be about a service that's just providing the songs, because anybody can do that. It starts by the level of integration that we have within our product. Second of all, we do a lot of curation. Third is radio.

As a hardware manufacturer first and foremost, Apple’s approach to Hollywood content makes sense and reminds me in many ways of its approach to third-party app developers.

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Open Casting Call Posted for Apple’s ‘Planet of the Apps’ Reality TV Show

Chance Miller at 9to5Mac:

Earlier this year it was announced that Apple was planning to launch its first original TV series about the “app economy.” Now, Apple has posted an open casting call for the unscripted reality series, which we now know is called Planet of the Apps.

The show is being co-produced with Propagate, a newly launched production company co-owned by Ben Silverman, best known for The Biggest Loser, and Howard T. Owens of MasterChef Junior fame. Will.i.am will also have a hand in producing Apple’s reality series.

The casting call is open to legal residents of the US, and it requires you to have a functioning app (for iOS, macOS, tvOS or watchOS) by October 21. The show will also incorporate elements of mentorship, marketing and promotion ("featured placement in the App Store at the end of the show"), and even funding from "top-tier VCs".

Executive producers will.i.am, Ben Silverman, and Howard Owens are teaming up for an unscripted series about the world of apps and the talented people that drive its innovation. They’re looking for developers with the vision to shape the future, solve real problems, and inspire change within our daily lives. “We can really tell their stories as we explore how apps are developed and created and incubated,” says Silverman.

If you're interested in potentially applying to be a part of Planet of the Apps, you can visit their website which contains more information on the requirements and application process.

Shooting takes place from "late 2016 to early 2017" with no official broadcast date just yet, though the website does note that the show will "reach millions of viewers around the world on Apple platforms". Also yet to be announced are the tech experts and mentors, and these will be announced in "the coming weeks".

I'm not sure why they're calling the series "Planet of the Apps", a name which appears to inexplicably riff on the "Planet of the Apes" science fiction franchise. I hope that by the time the series goes to air it has a different, better, name.

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