Apple TV isn’t just about TV. It’s about owning the home with HomeKit
It looks like Apple TV is finally going to get an update, most probably at the September rollout of the next iPhone. The story – broken by John Paczkowski of BuzzFeed, who has an excellent track record with Apple product news – claims the new Apple TV will have a refreshed design, faster processor, Siri and an App Store that will let developers create new apps for it.
It’s tempting to see this as a major play for home entertainment, and it’s almost certain that many of the apps that developers release in the first wave will be games, video content streaming, and so on. I’d expect many of the top-tier iOS games to come to the Apple TV – especially if the APIs Apple makes available include Metal, which will soon work on both iOS and OS X. Being able to develop and then quickly port a game to cover all three platforms will be a tempting prospect.
But more interesting, and I think more crucial to the long-term success of Apple TV, is the inclusion of Siri. The place I use Siri more than anything is in the home. Like, I suspect, many people, I find talking to my phone or watch just a little bit embarrassing in public. At home, though, me and Siri have a great relationship.
If all you’re doing with Siri is occasionally checking the weather, sending a few messages and setting timers for things in the kitchen, you’re probably wondering what the benefits of having Siri on Apple TV are. Imagine, though, that Siri could also control every device in your house: the light bulbs, the heating, even the temperature on your oven. That’s when things start to get really interesting.
And that’s where the other piece of the jigsaw comes in: HomeKit. HomeKit is a toolkit for developers to integrate any kind of home automation with iOS devices, letting you control them from an iPad, iPhone, Apple Watch – or potentially an Apple TV. Actions can be triggered via Siri, which means you don’t have to type into your phone to do things.
At the moment, though, you do need a phone: and that’s where the Apple TV comes in. The Apple TV is potentially the real home hub, capable of being the command centre for automation. If it’s going to do this, it needs an input system that’s better than a keyboard or fancy remote – and Siri fits the bill perfectly.
As an under-£100 device, Apple TV makes a perfect home hub. Even without automation, it has enough features to be a viable contender for space under or around the TV set, but once you build in automation, it becomes much more compelling. What will be interesting is to see how low Apple goes with the price: the closer to the likes of Chromecast, the better it will take off. If Apple prices it very competitively, it will show how serious it is about making this market its own.