Thoughts about Apple TV 2 and big screen UIs

I have to admit I was a little bit sceptical about the latest streaming-only Apple TV. I had my original 40 GB since it was introduced back in 2007 and I alway used iPod-style content management approach. I had to sync what I wanted to play later on the device later, without the need for a computer.

Turns out that using my laptop or an iOS device to play music or videos is actually much easier and convenient then picking up a remote and going through menus on TV screen. In fact I don’t even use Apple Remote anymore now. Apple TV turns on when I start streaming something over Wi-Fi and goes back to sleep mode a short while after. It’s that simple, convenient and requires minimal interactions from user. Less is more.

It makes me think about TV UIs in general. No one seems to get it just right. Apple itself changed Apple TV’s user interface 3 times. I don’t even want to start talking about UIs of set-top boxes, most are counterintuitive and backward thinking. On Apple TV streaming works so well just because you can keep using a familiar interface to play your content. It’s much easier and intuitive. Plus multitouch just blows away anything that can be done with a conventional remote.

You can use your smartphone as just another remote for a UI on the big screen. But it would be pretty cool if my satellite box for example could actually display custom UI native to my smartphone or tablet. I won’t even need to look at the TV screen until the media starts playing. This would replace a growing number of remotes in the living room and essentially turn TV or a set-top box in to a little square icon on the home screen. I quite like the idea.

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