Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Looking for the Apple TV? Look in Front of You.

Nope, still no Apple TV.

Apple’s WWDC presentation took nearly two hours, and none of that time was devoted to the product lots of smart people insist is going to show up one day, someday.

Still, look a little closer, and you might see the outlines of Apple’s TV plans staring you right in the face.

It’s possible that Tim Cook really will come out with a big, shiny, integrated TV set. But regardless, he appears to be building the “real” Apple TV right in front of us. The key here is to focus not on the hardware but on the software, the content, and the way users will get to access all of that stuff.

In March, for instance, Apple started an in-app billing integration with Netflix. So current Apple TV users — the ones using the $99 hockey puck —  can sign up for Reed Hastings’s service directly from their couch, using their iTunes account instead of a credit card.

Right now, there isn’t a whole lot else to pay for on Apple TV, except for iTunes movies and TV shows. But one day there will be, and that Netflix deal should serve as a template.

Today we got another important piece of the puzzle: As Apple announced earlier in the year, its new Mountain Lion OS will offer “AirPlay mirroring,” so Mac users can move whatever’s on their laptop or PC screen directly to their TV, using the Apple TV box as bridge.

Based on the liveblogs I saw this morning, Apple executive Craig Federighi spent no more than a few seconds showing how this would work, and didn’t say a word about how you might use this in your living room — “fantastic for the classroom and meeting room,” he said.

But a lot of clever folks I pay attention to, including Brightcove CEO Jeremy Allaire, think that AirPlay will be a key part of the Apple TV experience.

For starters, AirPlay should, in theory, let you move whatever’s on your Safari browser onto your TV. So anything you can stream to your MacBook can go to your flatscreen. It’s possible that there may still be technical limitations on this, and I assume it’s meaningful that Apple didn’t play this up as a living-room experience — yet.

But AirPlay on your PC (or iPad or iPhone, which already features AirPlay) should also give rise to a new breed of dual-screen Apple TV + AirPlay apps. Per Allaire: “It’s already happening: From MLB, which allows you to use your iPad as a second screen for HD baseball game broadcasts, to games that render on the TV while using your phone or tablet as a controller, to many of Apple’s own native apps like iPhoto and Keynote which present rich interactive interfaces on the iPad while rendering media onto the TV.”

Next on the Apple TV road map: Getting more content on there. Tim Cook defended Apple TV’s offerings during his D10 interview last month — in short, he pointed to the iTunes catalog of TV shows and movies and said, “See?” But he also mentioned recent trips to see Hollywood studios and other content partners. If you’re into reading Apple tea leaves, those seem like meaningful ones to examine.


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There was a worry before I started this that I was going to burn every bridge I had. But I realize now that there are some bridges that are worth burning.

— Valleywag editor Sam Biddle