New Apple TV – Finally!

10. September 2015

In autumn, Apple presented a new generation of its multimedia centre Apple TV. This was an event that we were long and impatiently anticipating since the WWDC 2014 conference, prior to which there was a lot of speculation about the introduction of the new device. The presentation finally took place almost two years later.

What were we waiting so long for?

The answer is simple: access for all developers to the Apple TV system, which had hitherto been closed. Although it was possible to create applications even for the current Apple TV models, their development was limited to a number of specific services (YouTube, Netflix, Hulu, Vimeo, etc.). The most important events for developers therefore include the possibility to install applications from AppStore, implement the new tvOS application and publish the SDK.

According to Tim Cook, the future of the new Apple TV is in applications. This statement is in no way surprising, and Apple will be able to surpass not only its major competitor Roku (especially in the USA and UK) relatively quickly in terms of the number of applications, but also other smart television platforms that have moved to new operating systems in the last year: webOS in the case of LG, Tizen for Samsung televisions and FireFox in the case of Panasonic. In this regard, it will not have a hard time either with FireTV from Amazon or the Android TV system. Although SONY and Philips may be hugely supporting these systems by integrating them into their televisions, quality applications are still few and far between.

Another pleasant surprise was that Apple offered certain companies free hardware for testing – the so-called Apple Developer Kit – immediately upon release of the product. Developing for tvOS is, however possible even if you are not one of its lucky owners by using an emulator, which is part of Xcode 7.1. The application for tvOS may be (unlike iOS applications for iPhone and iPad), written in two ways:

  • With the help of the TVML tagging language (which is an XML schema) using JavaScript (TVJS) and TVMLKIT. The developer also has to count on the fact that the various application scenes will have a standardised appearance due to the template used.
  • In the traditional way using the Objective-C or Swift language with the help of (modified) frameworks and libraries known from iOS.

The first method is suitable especially for applications displaying multimedia content and streaming videos. The second method is intended for games and programmes that require access to the operating system functions, as well as for applications with their own appearance and applications that share a substantial part of the code with applications for iPhone and iPad – the quick porting of existing applications may be a major benefit of Apple TV.

Even the remote control underwent a substantial change and, following the example of Android and Roku, sports a microphone and integrated voice control. A gyroscope and touch surface for controlling applications with gestures are also newly integrated into it. Gaming will be one important aspect of Apple TV. Surprisingly, Apple is for now not preparing a special control device similar to those on classical game consoles or on Android TV.

Apple’s arrival with a new device for television screens confirms the assumption that the market for home equipment combining multimedia centres for playing videos with applications and game consoles has moved up to the next level. Whether the new Apple TV will change the situation on the market and whether Apple will become a trend setter in television applications remains to be seen and is difficult to predict. In any case, we are ecstatic about the new possibilities and ready to develop applications for Apple TV.

Here you can find out how we develop applications for Apple TV and other streaming devices.

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