I've had a love/hate relationship with Apple TV since its release. Despite yesterday's price cut, the addition of the movie rental service, and computer-free content acquisition for things like Podcasts and music tracks, to me it's still not a necessary living-room entertainment device. The big deal-killer for me is still the closed system, which, for a modern-day streaming device, continues to act as if certain file formats don't exist, despite the competition's (including Microsoft) beginning to accept them with open arms.
However, the one thing that does interest me and gets me actually wanting one in my living room is the inclusion of highly specialized Web-based services. The most notable addition to come yesterday? Another big Silicon Valley service: Flickr.
So now we've got four Web-based services doing their thing on the Apple TV, including YouTube, which Apple added to the device in late June, Mac picture galleries, and movie trailers from Apple's popular QuickTime site. All of these got me thinking: what other Web-enabled services would go well with the Apple TV? Short of an Apple TV SDK that would let developers build in some new functionality to the device, surely there's room for more. I've put together a list of five services I'd like to see make their way onto the Apple TV that I think would actually work, given the relatively limited remote control and a lack of a keyboard.
1. RSS reader
While an RSS reader might be a borderline Web browser (which will likely never make its way anywhere close to the Apple TV), its use for some easy reading makes a lot of sense. As we've seen with Google's Wii-optimized version of its Reader product, living room RSS can be as easy as pie with a four-way directional pad and two control buttons, which the Apple TV remote just happens to have.
Weather on your TV is immensely helpful, and given the inclusion of the weather widget as standard on the iPhone, the iPod Touch, and on OS X since version 10.4, it would make sense to put a larger, more extensive version of the weather app on the Apple TV for folks who want to give the forecast a quick check without turning on their computer or navigating the crummy menus of their set-top cable box.
Yet another widget that would be nice to have as a larger, more informative widget for wide-screen TVs. Since most ticker symbols can be looked up with three or four letters, a keyboard would be unnecessary to input your favorite companies. Along with weather, this one seems like a no-brainer.
Joost may be a software service, but the Apple TV has plenty of horsepower to drive it. It'll likely never happen, but given the amount of quality content that's on there, it would make a nice addition to the lineup of podcasts both audio and video that Apple's making available with the latest software update.
5. Internet radio (Shoutcast, Pandora, Last.fm, etc.)
Like Joost (above), Internet radio would make an excellent streaming extension to some of the downloadable content found via iTunes. Heck, it's already a part of the software iteration of iTunes--how hard would it be to stick those streams in there?
Got any of your own? Leave them in the comments.