Around this time last year, if you asked me if I would ever own an Apple TV, I would have responded with a blunt “no” quickly. With a laptop, and a smart phone, along with a Playstation 3 in my living room, why would I ever need an Apple TV? What functionality would I get with it that isn’t already offered in my gaming console? What user experience would be enhanced by a small device that merely replicated everything I already could do? The future of Apple TV wasn’t looking good as it was, with Apple consistently calling it a hobby. I wasn’t even going to change my mind on the purchase if they added a hard drive, since I’ve already got a 1TB external hooked to my game console. Placing media on that is super easy too.

It wasn’t until I got married and received one as a gift that I began to use and experience what an Apple TV was like. Up until September 2013, I had only seen this device’s interface on the internet. I had never used it myself. I plugged in the power cord, hooked the HDMI to my television, and without even needing to press any buttons on the remote to turn it on, I was welcomed and prompted to set up access to the WiFi network. Typical Apple really, simplifying the experience to the point where I don’t even have to turn it on.

With the WiFi set up, I quickly saw a plethora of content in the form of app icons on the home screen. There was channels here that simply weren’t available on my Playstation, such as the VEVO channel (excellent source of music videos playing for a party), the Smithsonian channel (I’m a sucker for fact-based programming. Sue me for wanting to learn stuff), Vimeo, Bloomberg, Disney, ABC, dedicated sports apps, and more. I was suddenly hit with the reality of the situation: The Apple TV is better at entertainment than the Playstation is. While, of course, not in regards to games or playing disc-based media, it does everything else exceptionally well. The video quality is excellent, the response times are great, and while there are a few quirks to the interface that I wish would change, it does what it was meant to do very well. Of course, individual app developers are to blame for most of the quirks that I have with the software, as I’m using third-party software most often¬†(why does it take so many button presses to get anywhere in Netflix? Can we get a more consolidated menu interface… maybe one that doesn’t require so many menu screens?).

The point I’m trying to make here, is that ever since the Apple TV was introduced, I’ve never seen the need for one. Now that I have one, it’s the most-used piece of hardware in the home, second still of course to my laptop.

Now we’re hearing rumors of the Apple TV being refreshed this year, and introducing all sorts of new functionality, such as apps and a built-in router. The device has even got its own home on the Apple Store now, further supporting it’s graduation from “hobby” to something more. These rumors are nice, but let’s talk about this a little more, regarding how this would change the game even more.

Apps and Games

What is possible with the App Store being added to the Apple TV? How would this change the game? Just like the addition of an App Store changed the smart phone world forever, so too perhaps would it change the digital entertainment world. We would be far more likely to dump cable television, and with a price point staying at $99, it’s a really amazing bargain. This is especially true with regard to games, as this would make it a legitimate competitor to other consoles. While nobody in their right mind would ever ‘replace’ their Playstation or Xbox with an Apple TV, the amount of time spent on games with Apple’s little hockey puck would be competing with your time playing consoles, and thus, taking money away from the console market.

When games on the iPhone began to get popular, they weren’t seen as a threat to the gaming world. When I thought about mobile games, I thought of Angry Birds, Cut the Rope, Flight Control, and Plants vs Zombies. These games brought hours of gameplay that pressed our problem solving skills and strategy on the go. They were simple enough to pick up and drop again within a bus ride, but not so serious as to completely occupy our entire day like some console and PC games do (Skyrim players… I’m looking at you) Now I think of other titles, like The Walking Dead, Oceanhorn, XCOM, Real Racing 3, and the large selection of ported titles from EA and Rockstar. Mix in a bit of Square Enix’s Final Fantasy goodness, and you have a legitimate gaming platform, easy. A gaming platform that, when brought to the Apple TV, would be a killer contender.

If you think about it, and really look at the way of the world, Nintendo is sort of on their way out. The company simply isn’t keeping up with the demands of the gaming world, and while they might be innovative in terms of designing and shaping gameplay for the future, the games they’re producing aren’t doing well enough to justify purchasing the console. They’ve also expressed quite plainly that they aren’t bringing their software to the mobile world, something that will absolutely be a mistake for their future. Apple, on the other hand, has a market that’s already insanely popular, and essentially everyone already knows how to obtain new software for it, and get updates. In fact, with iTunes as integrated with us mobile users as it is already, it’s safe to claim that it’s more likely you’ll already have an account on file with the Apple TV than not when you buy one. It could just be the next ‘console’ that “just works” and “we already know how to use.”

Business and Presentations

It may not seem like a device capable of “enterprise” functionality, but the Apple TV being opened to an App store and the real iOS also gives it the possibility of productivity applications. We already have “Airplay” functionality with our Macs, which is great if you have newer hardware that supports it, or third-party software that lets you do it anyways. However, I think this experience can be even better. What about if Keynote was installed on the Apple TV though, rather than just on our phone or on our Macs? Oh man.

Imagine having to give a presentation, and not having to take your thumb drive in to import to the office computers anymore. Not having to deal with the remote that won’t work, or the PC applications being buggy and crashing (office computers are never up to date, amiright?). Imagine being able to walk into your meeting with your Apple TV in the briefcase, taking it out of the box, plugging it in to the HDMI ports, and BAM! You have a presentation the way you had already set it up on your Mac, with a remote interface that’s friendly and intuitive, and without worrying that somebody else’s software will stop you. Better yet, what if the Apple TV had a short-term internal battery, just for this ability? I know I’m reaching here, but I don’t think the Apple TV has reached its potential, and throwing out ideas like this is what helps progress the world forward.

Apple TV Gets A Name Change

With this type of future ahead of it, the Apple TV needs to not only outgrow its lack of functionality, but the name that’s associated with it as well. It’s not just about a TV anymore. It’s about an experience of its own. Why associate the product with something as mundane as a television set? Give the product a name worthy of its possibilities for the future. A name that won’t outgrow it when you add gaming and other types of applications to it. If anything, the Apple TV doesn’t just serve us content on a television screen, or at least it shouldn’t. Instead, this device should be seen as a gateway to the world’s entertainment. A gateway to the millions of possibilities that could come of it. Apple already knows that it dominates most markets that it enters into, and it doesn’t take ‘huge’ risks with stuff that it knows will fail. It always builds products that it can control, but internally, and the externally to the market that it consumes.

Google TV was a failure, and Roku and other boxes aren’t the most popular thing in the world. While those devices have more “function” and higher “specs” than the Apple TV, it didn’t destroy it. In fact, quite the opposite (Google TV is no more). This is an opportunity to expand this device guys, and take it to a new level. Add the real iOS, the App Store, and an internal hard drive, all while keep that $99 price point, and they’ll never have to worry about a competitor stealing their market, ever. They’ve already got an unbeatable software ecosystem for a device of this type… so why wait!? Do it NOW!

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