Our good friend Graham Bower likes to occasionally send some of his gorgeous Apple product mock-ups our way. His latest creation is a direct response to the recent rumor that the next Apple TV will be a $99 iPhone OS device that streams media to your television set, and answers the question: how do you control a multitouch operating system without a touchscreen?
The answer: make the remote a touchscreen. Graham’s idea is that Apple would ship the new Apple TV with a remote similar to the Magic Mouse, along with a built-in accelerometer.
I’ve mulled over this idea for the Apple TV’s remote before. On first blush, it seems like a great solution, but here’s the problem: the only way a device like this can work is if it introduces some sort of pointer to iPhone OS. For multitouch to work on a display divorced from the actual input device (ie: for multitouch to work when you’re not directly touching the screen on which graphical elements are displayed), you need some sort of icon to show you where your “fingers” are.
Apple could, of course, introduce a pointer to Apple TV’s flavor of iPhone OS… but it seems anathema to the operating system. And for what purpose? Think about how awful iPhone apps look when blown up on the iPad’s display, then imagine that extrapolated on a 52-inch plasma. Apple TV apps will have to be reprogrammed anyway to make the most of the increased (and vastly different) screen real estate: why, then, wouldn’t they be programmed to accept a different and more indirect method of user inputs?
I love Graham’s idea, and I think Apple probably will go with a solution like this for the next Apple TV. But I think Apple will ultimately have to make apps on the next Apple TV their own distinct beast, employing a significantly different interface from their iPhone and iPad counterparts. If the next Apple TV is indeed an iPhone OS device, it’s going to represent just as significant a forking of the operating system as the original Apple TV’s OS X Lite operating system was from Tiger proper.