Apple (AAPL) announced a long list of new products on Wednesday: A large iPad Pro, new iPhone models, and upgraded Apple TV.
The Apple TV is by far the most interesting out of the three newly announced products and opens up a new world of new possibilities for developers around the world. The small black box will still allow consumers to stream movies and TV shows from various content providers, but now gives developers the ability to create apps that run on the set-top box.
Developers will also have the ability to sell TV apps or games through a dedicated App Store, similar to one found on iOS devices.
In small, temporary living rooms Apple representatives demonstrated various aspects of the new device at its Sept. 9 event. One area was dedicated to showing off the reworked HBO Go app, while another showcased Netflix and offered a basic overview of the Apple TV’s new interface.
I was able to try out the new system for a few minutes, which included chatting with Siri (Apple’s digital assistant), and testing Apple TV’s new remote, which also doubled as a gamepad while playing Disney Infinity 3 Star Wars.
Consumers will be able to navigate the TV’s menu system by using a small touchpad that takes up the top third of the remote. A swipe left or right will highlight various items (be it a movie poster or app on your TV screen). By applying a little pressure to the touchpad, users can also launch a new app or, for example, open an information screen for movies and TV shows.
It was all too easy to move around the screen using the touchpad and will feel somewhat natural for users, especially for those familiar with the iOS Remote app. Those who own an Apple TV that uses one of the small silver remotes will be happy to know that it has almost doubled in size, which, in theory, should make it harder to lose.
I was able to activate Siri by pressing and holding a dedicated button on the remote. When giving Siri commands such as, for example, “find movies with Nicolas Cage” I felt the urge to place the remote as close to my mouth as possible so I could be heard in the noisy environment. Later I was told holding the remote beside my mouth isn’t necessary, and sure enough the next person to demo Siri held the remote at chest level and was heard just fine.
When it came time to test Apple TV’s gaming prowess, I opted to try the Star Wars game, which required me to use the remote as a game controller.
The game required me to fly a spaceship on a mission where I was tasked with shooting at bad guys in different environments. I was able to steer my spaceship past several obstacles by tilting the remote. I expected a delay or lag between when I physically tilted the remote and when the fictional spaceship actually turned, but was surprised there was none.
The future of Apple TV as a platform, and not simply a content provider, is complicated. Either developers are going to get on board and create quality apps, or we’re going to see apps that add little value and overwhelm Apple TV.
The Apple TV will be available at the end of October at $149 for a 32GB model, or $199 for a 64 GB model.
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