Whenever people dream about the Apple TV getting apps, they forget that all of the current iOS apps require a touch screen. Not only is the television in your house not a touch screen, it's also at the other side of your living room/bedroom/man-cave, far away from the stretch of your arms. This means that either apps would require a complete re-think and redesign to work with the very limited buttons on the Apple TV controller, or Apple would have to release a hardware peripheral to enhance the range of interaction possible.
This week, through a software update to all existing Apple TV's, the previously unused bluetooth chip was activated and you can now pair an Apple bluetooth keyboard with the device. This seems like an odd move because entering text is not something that you do very often. A couple of passwords when you first set it up, maybe a search for a movie or a song, but most of those things aren't difficult to do with the directional arrows on the remote.
However, if you were going to add apps to the device, keyboard control would be a good place to start, especially if one of those apps was going to be a web browser. Maybe next they'll add support for another accessory they already make, the Magic Trackpad. It supports multi-touch, would work reasonably well sitting it on a couch, and you could theoretically use a lot of apps without much change. It wouldn't be perfect, as that direct control you get with a touch-screen is still going to be missing, but it's always going to be missing, and maybe you just have to accept that.
All of these ideas will let you put apps on the Apple TV and let you control them, but they wouldn't be the same iOS apps that you're used to. What I want to see them do is ignore all these steps and go for one that would be incredibly simple, release an official Apple bluetooth joypad for the Apple TV.
- Gaming is the number one app category on existing iOS devices. And a huge number of them would work easily with joypad control, because most of them were designed with joypad in mind in the first place.
- The iPad / iPhone would be a second screen to the games on the Apple TV. Rather than pushing to the TV, the TV can push to you. Wii U advantage, removed.
- The joypad could be $30 and you could order it through the TV. They have your credit card, they have your address, done.
- All those iOS games you already love? Now on your TV from the comfort of your couch with friends, multiplayer online, Game Center integration...
Apple have the opportunity to be the trojan horse games console, with millions of them already in the home, massively undercutting Sony/Nintendo/Microsoft and bringing family friendly gaming into the living room. I can't think of a single reason for them not to do it.