Apple’s ‘TV’ (Not Just Apple TV) Wants To Be Your One-Stop Streaming Shop

Image courtesy of Apple

Today at a major press event, Apple announced TV. Not Apple TV, which already exists; nor iTV, which would be in line with their decade-old scheme but is a trademark held by someone else for something else entirely. No, neither of those, which would be less confusing. Just… TV.

Don’t let the name confuse you into thinking of the Apple TV, which is a thing — like a Chromecast, Roku, or Amazon Fire device — that you plug into your TV set to access streaming content. TV is, instead, an app for any iOS platform or, indeed, the new approach to Apple TV. Yes: Apple heard you like TV on your TV, so you can run TV on your TV.

iPhone owners may already be familiar with the principle; Apple’s used it in the Passbook and Wallet apps for years. The idea is that an Apple app, built into iOS, becomes a one-stop shop where all your [whatever] from all the sources you use can be put together for one-click access. It might be all your airplane and concert tickets, all your store rewards cards, all your credit cards — whatever. Apple does not own every kind of business, but it partners with them to bring their service onto its platform.

So in that sense, TV is just another step down that road.

“It will completely change how you watch TV with your Apple TV as well as your iPhone and iPad,” said Apple CEO Tim Cook, because that is the sort of thing Apple CEOs say.

Basically, it’s a universal search app that draws in content from the services you subscribe to. Or, in Cook’s words again, “a unified TV experience, one place to access all of your TV shows and movies, one place to discover great new content to watch.”

It’s got four parts: Watch Now, Library, Store, and Search. And each of them does exactly what it sounds like. Watch Now takes you back to whatever you were watching last, regardless of which service the content is piped through. Library takes you to your library of content you’ve purchased through iTunes. Up Next and Recommended are queue and recommendation features like basically every streaming app has, and store and search are store and search.

That said, it’s not totally universal. The content you can get through TV is only as good as the partners that Apple has talked into working with them.

It will be able to draw in streaming content you have TV-everywhere-style access to through your cable provider, though, and it will do it through a single-sign-on feature. You give the app your information once, and you shouldn’t have to log in individually to every single cable-based streaming service you have access to afterwards.

At least, theoretically: in order for that to work, a pay-TV provider has to be on board. Starting in December, Dish Network and DirecTV (AT&T) customers should be able to make it work. Cable subscribers, like the roughly 50 million who have either Charter or Comcast at home, don’t have an ETA for when they’d be in luck just yet.

Also out of luck: fans of the two biggest names in the streaming TV room, Netflix and Amazon. Amazon’s absence is understandable; its line of FireTV devices is in direct competition with the Apple TV (the hardware), and access to Amazon content is a selling point it can use.

Netflix, however, is usually everywhere, on basically any device that will have it. It’s even in beta testing now on Comcast’s fancy X1 cable box. Its content has also in the past been accessible through the Apple TV’s search feature. But not now, a spokesperson for the company confirmed to Wired.

In the end, then, TV almost seems to be doing exactly what the cable industry didn’t want the FCC to make universal: it’s a suitable cable box alternative for folks who have a whole lot of separate streaming logins to manage. Even if you do still have to switch apps to go from Game of Thrones to Orange Is The New Black.

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