iOS 9’s Apple News expands publisher reach as readership climbs toward 40 million

30 Oct 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Apple TV asks developers to take apps to the big screen.

Apple’s loyal army of software developers is joining the tech giant in its bid to conquer the living room with a new version of Apple TV, creating apps for the big screen that they hope will attract users and unlock a rich source of revenue. If you didn’t buy into the new Apple TV enough to actually buy into it, good news: starting tomorrow, you can walk into an actual store and hand human beings money in return for Apple’s promised Future Of Television.On Thursday I came to grips with the new touchpad remote and chatting to Siri, but for many people the most exciting thing about the fourth-generation Apple TV is the appearance of the App Store. The Apple TV has the potential to be a lot more than a set-top box: Its new tvOS operating system, like that of the iPhone’s iOS, will serve as a platform for hundreds of apps.

Although developers have already been able to make apps for smart TV rivals, Apple’s vast base of developers will set the device apart, analysts say. And developers say they relish the opportunity to reach users in a more intimate setting. “It’s a phenomenal opportunity to fit into people’s lives when they are comfortably sitting on their sofa,” said Madefire CEO Ben Wolstenholme, whose app features vivid digital books. A bigger selling point for many is the slick new remote control, which Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook hailed as “revolutionary.” It does a pretty good job acting on Siri voice commands like “Show ’80s romantic comedies,” writes Geoffrey Fowler of the Wall Street Journal. In another bonus, the new remote has a touchpad like a MacBook, eliminating the need for a bulky monstrosity that carries dozens of buttons and arrow keys. Most of them are flotsam and jetsam at this point but it shouldn’t take developers long to get onboard now that they no longer need to jump through so many hoops.

Yet the TV, which starts at $149, has some advantages over other devices: People are accustomed to spending money on entertainment, and they will be engaged for longer, said Danielle Levitas, a senior vice president at research firm App Annie. Nevertheless, users will frequently still have to use this fancy remote to hunt and peck, one letter at a time, through an on-screen keyboard to find movies. “It’s excruciating,” gripes Yahoo’s David Pogue, blasting an “absurdly designed layout” for the on-screen keyboard that puts all 26 letters of the alphabet on a single line. Elsewhere, some reviewers were disappointed that the Siri commands only worked with a few key apps, and that its handy search capabilities aren’t available for YouTube or broadcast channels like NBC, CBS, ABC and PBS.

For now Apple TV owners have a few apps to choose from – mostly streaming services and games but also a handful of “experience” apps like Airbnb for browsing rentals, Kitchen Stories for cooking tips, Craftsy for tutorials and Zova for exercise – alluding to the Apple TV’s potential as a Wii-style family device. That’s particularly unfortunate, according to Yahoo’s Pogue, as Amazon’s video service “is looking like it’s going to be the new Netflix, now that Netflix is de-emphasizing movie acquisition.” It will be interesting to see whether, like iOS, some apps are only available in the US – a quick look at the US store already reveals games which aren’t available in Australia. With the freedom to install apps Apple also grants you the ability to reorganise the apps the home screen, plus you can double-click the home button to call up an iOS-style app switcher. You can still take a big swing at the ball and there’s an optional wrist strap, which could be a wise investment if you’re not in the market for a new television.

Tilting the remote to steer works well, although it’s surprising that Apple hasn’t forced every game to use the remote the same way so sometimes you’ll need to turn it around in your hands as you switch games. This won’t bother everyone, but it’s another frustration compared to other consoles which generally make it easy for everyone in the house to track their progress and play at their own speed. It’s a little top heavy and not as comfortable as the PlayStation VR (I wear glasses and it was weighing down on them quite heavily, leaving behind a red mark on my nose that later disappeared), but the visual experience it provided was just as good, if not slightly better in some instances.

This is largely thanks to the two specially designed controllers made for it that offer slightly more functionality and freedom than PlayStation’s Move controllers (those glowing coloured orbs on a stick). Sold as a game set during a zombie apocalypse, you’ll supposedly be able to bash, slash and explode your way through hordes of undead once its final version is out.

As the title suggests, you’re an office worker tasked with completing a series of mundane tasks: Eating doughnuts; firing employees using a large “fired’ stamp after grabbing the employee’s file from a filing cabinet; making a coffee; plugging in PC and printer power cables; and logging into a computer to print out a photo. Apart from the fun games, the Vive also has a pretty nifty feature that I haven’t seen in any of the Sony’s PlayStation VR demos I’ve played so far that prevents you from running into walls. As it was told to me by the HTC representative demonstrating the Vive to me, all you need to do is walk around the edges of the room you’re in with one of the controllers and press it several times to draw the perimeter. Then, once in the game, if you walk too close to a wall in the real world then a virtual representation of it is overlaid on top of the virtual world you’re in to prevent you from a collision. Mcree, HTC senior manager of product marketing, said it was unlikely for some time due to the fact 15-20 gigabits per second of data is currently being fed to the Vive headset, and wireless technologies aren’t fast enough to deal with that just yet.

One can only hope boffins can make wireless go faster sometime soon, or VR headset engineers can find some magical compression algorithm for the video, and a way to have low latency, wireless gaming. And that’s the final thing I wanted to point out about the Vive: all the demos I tried were all about walking around, whereas the demos for most Sony games required you to be sitting.

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