iOS on an Apple TV? A VERY Bad Idea

by Chris Seibold Aug 27, 2010

By now you've probably heard that Apple has scheduled a press conference for September 1st. You never hear the words "Apple has scheduled a press event" without an immediate deluge of speculation over what the press event might reveal. And this piece will not dissapoint you.

Honestly, this event shouldn't be too difficult to decipher. It's in September and that means...drumrolls please...iPods. The iPod touch looks a lot more like the iPhone 3GS than the iPhone 4. Hence, the easiest guess is that the iPod Touch will be updated to be more iPhonish.

You know, a front-facing camera for FaceTime functionality, a camera on the back for snapping photos, a better screen and so forth. Updates to the other iPod models will also likely show up but does anyone really care about anything in iPod land but the Touch anymore?

The FaceTime update makes particularly good sense because by adding FaceTime functionality Apple can tout the number of potential FaceTime users out there without noting that the number of actual repeat FaceTime users is laughably small. (Everyone tries it once, right?) So updating the iPod Touch to iPhone standards seems like a lock. Consumers get a better value, Apple sells more iPods and gets some great marketing out of the event.

At this point you're thinking "A front-facing camera on an iPod? We need more drama than that!" Two things here. The first thing to remember is that Steve Jobs will be giving the promo. It won't come off as just a front-facing camera. Steve will pitch it as a revolution of some sort. One imagines it might go something like this:

"When we put FaceTime on the iPhone we didn't realize just how revolutionary it would be. Every single person with an iPhone has tried FaceTime. The biggest problem with FaceTime? People are running out of other people to chat with. Today we're going to solve the problem. Today, we're adding FaceTime to the iPod Touch. You know who has touches instead of iPhones? Kids, that's who. Now you can yell at your kids face to face one hundred miles away! BOOM!"

Or something like that. Some fail to grasp the power of Steve Jobs' presentation skills and imagine there has to be more to the press event than just some iPod stuff. If it has to be more than just iPod updates that means there will be Apple TV shenanigans. The iPhone update is only a few months old, Macs have been recently refreshed, so the only thing left is the Apple TV.

What do people imagine will happen to the Apple TV? They imagine it will be renamed the iTV and run iOS, the same OS that runs the iPad, the iPhone and the iPod touch. The benefits of such a change are immediately obvious. Apple will sell more apps, people already know how to use iOS so there is no learning curve and Apple can make everything more integrated. The idea is perfection encapsulated, a no brainer, the easiest move in the world, right?

Not so fast. What commonality do all the iOS devices share? It isn't screen size—the iPad is much larger than the iPhone or iPod touch. And it isn't the need for a contract, you can't get an iPhone without a contract but you can get an iPod touch or an iPad without a contract. The one commonality across all the iOS products though is the touch screen.

Now, slam iOS on an Apple TV. How do you use any of the apps? How do you fire up, say, the Weather app? In iOS you touch it. Chances are your TV doesn't have a touch sensitive screen. So you can't launch the app by touching it. The obvious solution is to add a cursor to the Apple TV remote right? Well, maybe not. When you touch something in iOS it launches, just a pointer won't do that because if it did you'd launch every app you accidentally hovered over. Well, you could add a button, just one, so that the app wouldn't launch until you actually clicked the button. Congrats you've just invented the mouse.

It actually is a bit more problematic than all that. Designing for touch instead of mouse click goes a lot deeper than replacing your finger with a cursor. Let's use Flight Control (a popular game for iOS) as an example. The idea behind Flight Control is that you direct various aircraft to land at specific spots using your finger. It works great on an iOS device where you can use your fingers, but it would be horrible trying to direct the planes with a mouse from across the room. You may argue that the Wii does exactly that and you'll be correct, but the telling difference is that the Wii games were designed with the Wii-mote in mind. In short, expecting Apple to come up with some kludge to make a remote act like your finger on your non-touch screen TV is too much to ask.

At the event expect to see an updated iPod touch but don't count on much with the Apple TV. If an iOS Apple TV does show up, sell your Apple shares because despite  iOS, Apple will have lost its touch.


  • Back in Feb 2010, there was a number of news stories about an Apple Job posting regarding iOS (Iphone OS) onto other platforms.

    I believe that some other platform will use iOS in the near future. I speculate it will be the AppleTv first and then later Macs..

    I do agree however the the Touch Interface is problematic.  My guess is that the new AppleTV/ITV will have to come with a remote or something to control it as part of the purchase price.  They could include a Magic TrackPad, but I doubt that would be feasible If they truly want to give this a price point like $99.  Maybe they will provide some sort of remote control similar to the current AppleTV remote to do basic navigation, and media consumption, but to play games and run most apps, you will have to either purchase a magic trackpad or use an Ipod Touch/Iphone as your touch interface.

    [Start of Quote]
    “Apple, in a job posting last week, advertised for an “Engineering Manager (Platform Bring-Up)” which states that Apple is taking their iPhone OS and putting it on new platforms:

    The Core Platform team within Apple’s Core OS organization is looking for a talented and inspired manager to lead a team focused on bring-up of iPhone OS on new platforms. The team is responsible for low level platform architecture, firmware, core drivers and bring-up of new hardware platforms. The team consists of talented engineers with experience in hardware, firmware, IOKit drivers, security and platform architecture.

    Which platforms?  There are so many.  As TiPb points out today, the biggest no-brainer of them all is AppleTV.  With the iPhone OS and a Apple’s own processors, the AppleTV could be made into something much smaller and cheaper.  AppleTV has been whittled down to one 160GB version which hasn’t seen much action lately.”
    [End of Quote]

    midijamman had this to say on Aug 28, 2010 Posts: 1
  • The problem with a lot of Apple fanatics is that they think Apple only makes products for them.  Come on people. Most of those iPod and iPhones are being used by people who runs Windows.  Think outside your Apple cart.

    iOS on Apple TV is a ridiculous idea.  As ridiculous as running OS X on your iPhone or iPad.  One was designed for a mouse and the other for a finger.  Requiring a user to have a $200 iPhone or iPod Touch or worse yet, a $500 (or more) iPad to use the Apple TV is recipe for making sure Apple only sells two devices.

    Now back to reading my news feeds.  NetNewsWire becons.

    Khürt Williams had this to say on Aug 29, 2010 Posts: 45
  • Khürt: How about the new Apple track pad, that would make a perfect touch device for an iOS Apple TV. It’s just so obvious that the developer community could create an endless umber of useful apps for the iTV just like they did to other iOS devices.

    “Most of those iPod and iPhones are being used by people who runs Windows.” Yes, but they buy iPhones because of the slick designs and all those fantastic apps. I’m an Apple fan, I use both Windows and Apple computers in my business every day and find that the Apple computers are just better. If they make an iOS Apple TV then I’m sure it will be a great product.  I buy Apple products because they make stuff that’s useful and fun, I haven’t been dissapointed yet. Does that make make me an Apple fanatic?

    Techlectics had this to say on Aug 31, 2010 Posts: 3
  • Hello all. Interesting posts! (though I’m rushed so may have missed some!)

    I think there are a couple of issues that may be important. First the iOS can’t run “as is” on the AppleTV. But whatever TVOS ends up on the AppleTV, iOS is CLOSER to what’s needed than regular MacOSX.

    Secondly, while iPhone or iPad apps could run okay if you had an iPhone controller, it won’t be a seamless and simple experience. Much better to have an app custom made for the iTV - but again, if you are choosing between porting from the Mac or iPhone, an iPhone app would be a more suitable starting point.

    I believe Apple will force the use of an iPhone/touch/iPad as a remote control. But they will not market it as “if you want an iTV you have to buy an iPhone!”. They’ll market it as “do you have an iPhone? This is the ultimate device to bring your iPhone and TV together. Play your music, rent movies, watch your photos….” etc etc. Apple won’t care if they limit there market to everyone with an iPhone. They keep the price cheaper, and they will probably sell a low-end iPod Touch/iTV combo pack.

    If they can assume EVERY remote has a touch screen, gyroscope/accelerometer, and its own content - they can design a better interface, perhaps revolutionary. But I do hope they have some sort of IR input even if it can’t really run the interface very well - just so my universal remote can press “pause” occasionally.

    Greg Alexander had this to say on Aug 31, 2010 Posts: 228
  • Apple will not design a UI that requires a cursor on the screen. If you’ve ever run iPhone apps with the emulator on the Mac using a mouse, you will realise quickly that this is sub optimal and not something that Apple will do. car title loan

    Car Title loans had this to say on Oct 04, 2011 Posts: 4
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