Earlier this year Apple released tvOS along with their new Apple TV. To the average consumer this may just look like a competitor to Roku’s new Roku 4 or Samsung’s revision to their SmartTV program — but it is so much more.
Until today Set Top Boxes have adopted a ”good enough“ policy for the developer tools behind them; the languages used to code applications for these platforms severely restricted developers from running with ideas and getting creative. Small attempts were made to solve this problem, however none of them were drastic enough to be successful because these boxes were deemed good enough. Developers remained limited from delivering powerful applications like they have in the AppStore on iPhone, or the Google Play Store on Android, and slowly started to ignore these platforms. Because of this, TV as we know it has remained, for the most part, linear and unchanged. Until now.
Apple’s new tvOS allows developers to leverage Swift (Apple’s newly opensourced, powerful and elegant programming language). With the barrier of limited tools lifted from the development community, doors have been opened for the world to deliver a new, non-linear TV experience.
For example, imagine this: You’re watching the news one night and a breaking story comes on about a specific area. You could pick up your remote, click on the map in the top right corner and explore the surrounding areas as the newscaster continues to talk… You are no longer restricted to watching TV in the ”start to finish“ linear fashion as you do now. It could go further. Maybe as the newscaster is talking, certain links to read in-depth about what he is speaking about show up. Clicking on one of these links could open a Wikipedia page that only spans half of the screen. The newscaster remains unobstructed as you do further research into the event and the parts that interest you.
Building an application such as this on a previous generation Set-Top Box, including Apple TV’s previous generation box, would be close to impossible and a nightmare to maintain – even to the most seasoned of developers. With tvOS not only is this feasible, but a company looking to develop apps like this can leverage tens of thousands of developers that are already familiar with Swift and use it daily to build iOS applications for Apple’s iPhone.
The future of television is probably no more than a few months away.