The rumor mill has been going full tilt with expectations that Apple is going to release a new TV product either this year or next. The rumors have been accelerated by Steve Jobs declaring that he had “finally cracked” how to make a usable TV.
If we take Steve Jobs at his word, then a question for web developers to ponder is whether or not this new TV will include a browser. Let’s take a look at some of the arguments for and against including a browser.
Reasons why a new Apple TV will not include a browser
- The current Apple TV does not have a browser.
- Browsers on TVs have not had the best user experience and adoption has been low.
- When announcing the latest Apple TV, Steve Jobs said, people “don’t want a computer on their TV. They have computers. They go to their wide-screen TVs for entertainment. Not to have another computer. This is a hard one for people in the computer industry to understand, but it’s really easy for consumers to understand. They get it.”
Reasons why a new Apple TV might include a browser
- Apple TV is built on top of iOS and has the WebKit rendering engine built in.
- People jailbreaking their Apple TV have been able to get access to the browser.
- There is a good chance that an App Store for Apple TV would be one of the major mechanisms for getting new content to the Apple TV.
- If Apple TV had an App Store, support for embedded webviews would be necessary as many apps these days combine native and web components including Apple’s own iTunes, Apple Store, and App Store apps.
- If embedded webviews and an App Store are available, someone will build a browser absent a specific policy from Apple against browsers. Such a policy seems unlikely as it would be difficult to enforce and cause an unnecessary backlash.
- If others are going to create browsers for the platform, it makes sense that Apple would want to define the default browsing experience by shipping Safari on the platform.
- Steve Jobs has a history of dismissing something until Apple has solved how it wants to implement it (see: multi-tasking in iOS).
Why worry about what Apple will do?
It wasn’t too long ago that people believed no one wanted to use the web on their mobile phones. The iPhone proved that to be wrong.
Now we hear similar refrains about how no one uses the web on their TV. If Apple releases a new TV and they include a browser, we may again see a shift in user behavior that would disprove those assertions.
If that happens, the challenges of building web pages will again increase as we all start to consider how to address a new form factor that we’ve long ignored.