Apple Inc is a company that has innovated and revolutionized multiple markets with a surprisingly short list of products. Apple made the iPod, the wildly successful MP3 music player, that subsequently changed the way we access a lot of our entertainment with iTunes. They've created the iPhone, which has revolutionized the smartphone market. They created their infamous App Store, which many of us are truly thankful for. Steve Jobs stunned audiences with the release of the "magical" iPad. And, of course, the original Macintosh computer, which was the basis of the entire company. Did I miss anything?
Some would say the list ends there. I might agree. However, remember about that 'hobby' Steve talked about? What was that called again? Ah, right.
Apple TV is probably the least known of all Apple Inc.'s products. The diminutive box, running a special version of iOS, provides an easy method of streaming video, movies, pictures, YouTube, that 200 picture album consisting entirely of your cat, and so on. With other iOS mobile products, you can use AirPlay to stream content from your iPod, iPhone, or iPad. In iOS 5, the introduction of AirPlay mirroring via WiFi will allow users to show content from their iThingies with no cords. The box itself is 1/4 the size of the previous version, and still packs the same punch. Errr.... Maybe it is more like a poke.
The big problem: It never really caught on. The only people I know that own one (or will admit to it) are my grandparents. They purchased it to replace the need to wait for their Netflix movies to arrive by mail. It also streamlines the process of getting and watching a movie, so ordering from Netflix doesn't involve waiting a few days to get a movie you wanted to watch a few days ago. This works great for them, because it is easy to do, and also removes the need for a computer if they wanted to download it via iTunes that way.
Beyond that case, however, I see no real need to own an Apple TV. Anything it does can easily be achieved by plugging in your MacBook to your flatscreen TV. All the features that Apple TV has can easily be replicated by iTunes, Safari, or Front Row on your Mac computer of choice. In other words, the only thing that sets Apple TV apart from cheaper alternatives is its ease of use: Plug it in once, and you're good to go!
Apple TV needs an overhaul!
So, what does it need? Apple TV is meant to be a magical black box that you plug into your television, to access all sorts of media. If more features are added to it, it basically becomes an undersized and overpowered entertainment computer that plugs into some screen in your house and runs iOS. This is still redundant, no matter what you do, because and other iDevice or Mac should be able to do the exact same thing the Apple TV, which costs you an extra hundred dollars. You might as well have an "AirPlay box" that just shows your iPad screen on your TV. No, Apple TV should stay where it is. This sounds like it requires a whole different product, with a whole different approach to television.
I want an iTV!
What would this hypothetical innovative and incredible iThing do?
1. Have a big screen.
Sort of a no-brainer. If Apple overhauls Apple TV, they might as well make it the screen as well as the computer. All-in-one design, like a big iMac, but appearing more like the typical flatscreen TV with the trademark Apple minimalistic and thin approach.
2. Run iOS.
The current version of Apple TV runs (a strange breed of) iOS. iTV has to run iOS, too, in order to have most of the features below integrate well with existing technology. The clean iOS interface would promote ease of use and simplicity. After all, no one really wants to spend a lot of time navigating through data on their TV. Television is about entertainment: iTV can add interactivity, as long as it doesn't interfere with the entertainment.
3. Have a big camera.
With the very gradual release of FaceTime across all of Apple's products, it only makes sense that iTV has a whopping big camera on top. Apple has this thing with small, terrible cameras for video chat. Although it is difficult to send high resolution video over the internet live, a better camera would be a great selling point and nice to look at yourself with while you play with all of the photo booth effects. I know you still do that from time to time. :P
4. WiFi, AirPlay, and AirDrop enabled.
Another no-brainer. iTV should be able to connect wirelessly to all of your devices, except for those that require wires (gasp). AirPlay is already part of Apple TV, and should continue to be integrated with iTV. AirDrop is for putting Mac content on iTV. Simply drag and drop onto your iTV from your Mac using AirDrop, and the content magically appears on screen for viewing, and is permanently saved on the TV itself.
iCloud opens up a whole new realm of possibilities. It allows for syncing of all your media across iTunes. Photo Stream for seeing the photos you just took with your iPhone at some geeky conference half and hour ago. It even has email for those who just can't get enough of it (Not sure if that person exists, but what harm does an extra app do?). Everything is synced automatically in the background.
6. Local Storage
Pretty obvious, but sometimes we don't think about how much storage we actually need, now that the cloud is so heavily relied upon. 500 GB - 1TB would be a nice entry level capacity.
The big camera has to be good for something besides taking funny photos of yourself playing some video game and posting them to Facebook. FaceTime on your TV would really add to calling family on the East coast or abroad. This way, everyone in your house can participate in the call, everyone can see, and no one will be left out.
8. Controlled by (free) Apple remote or iDevice.
It's always nice to have variety. An Apple remote would be used to control iTV out of the box, but the Remote app for iPhone, iPod, and iPad would be a nice way to more easily control iTV. It would use their touch screens to navigate and to enter data with the iDevice keyboard.
9. Game Center + App Store + Gaming Console
I saved the best for nearly last. A native App Store would allow new apps to be downloaded to your TV, like photo viewers, sports apps, productivity apps (another gasp), and, of course, games. iTV could revolutionize gaming (again) by acting as an actual full on game console, with games downloaded via the App Store. Better yet, companion apps for iPhone and iPad can heighten the experience, acting as both controllers and as secondary displays. (Sort of like the Wii U)
10. Netflix + iTunes + Hulu
Between the three, TV shows and movies can be completely covered, making your iTV the perfect on-demand device, instead of using your (relatively) small Mac screen to watch movies available in much larger HD sizes.
Bonus: Actually be used as screen for real TV.
You can add feature after feature, but the best part about a TV is the ability to watch TV. iTV also works as a monitor for your cable television service, so you don't have to keep that old CRT around to watch your favorite shows live. Of course, it would also be a pain to have two screens sitting next to each other. Does anyone really have the space for that?
↑ = WANT.