The worst thing about our flat screen TV is when, in the middle of watching one of our favorite shows, the system announces there's a software update and wonders whether we'd like to apply it right now. Argh! Watching TV should not feel like using your desktop at work!
This is the kind of disconnect Apple needs to avoid with the new Apple TV it is reported to be working on and which may, according to various sources, come out as early as this fall. A story on Forbes did a good job of pulling together most of the major rumors that have been floating around, including one that would affect iOS developers everywhere:
"The new Apple TV will have a thinner design, an A8 processor and more flash RAM than previous models. A major change in the new Apple TV is that it will ship with a remote that has a touchpad input . . . but the most notable changes are that the new Apple TV will have its own App Store along with a software development kit (SDK) for developers to build apps for the media streaming device."
An SDK I would expect, but a separate App Store? If this rumor is true -- and I tend to doubt it -- it would represent the biggest admission to date by Apple that its current approach to distributing iOS apps is essentially broken from a discoverability perspective. In other words, it would suggest that developers couldn't possibly manage to reach Apple TV customers without some sort of island from which to get away from the hordes of competitors clogging up the regular App Store.
There are all kinds of administrative reasons why Apple might want to avoid an Apple TV App Store. It submission and review process is already highly criticized, and a new store would probably require a similar but separate approach to vetting Apple TV apps. Analytics, payments and other areas might all need to be siloed as well. Even for one of the world's largest companies, who wants those kinds of hassles?
But the biggest reason for Apple to think twice about an Apple TV App Store is its impact on consumers. Microsoft may talk a lot about "universal apps," but it's pretty clear the customer experience of the future should be one in which applications move seamlessly across devices. In other words, if I'm using Facebook, I want to be able to access it with ease whether I'm on a desktop, on my smartphone, a tablet or (inevitably) a TV set. And TV is largely about consumption, where the time spent browsing has traditionally been about choosing channels. That's less of an issue now in the age of PVRs and services like Netflix, but I don't think anyone's crying out for a chance to sit in front of a TV and meander through a series of specialized apps.
Suffice it to say that if and when Apple launches a new Apple TV, the world will be watching. Unless a new Apple TV App Store works a lot better than the existing one, however, there's a good risk of everyone eventually tuning out. --Shane