Apple has introduced a new feature for existing Apple TV second and third generation hardware in its latest beta software for those devices, according to 9t05Mac. Specifically, the beta for Apple TV being tested by registered developers right now adds Bluetooth support to Apple’s set top streamer, making it possible to pair keyboards to the device for much easier text entry and streamlined navigation. But it could open the doors for much more to follow, and gamers could be a group that especially benefits from the changes.
The addition of Bluetooth support is noteworthy because it doesn’t require any changes to hardware; this is apparently just the activation of a latent ability present in existing Apple TV units. Previously, Apple TVs could use either Apple remotes, universal IR devices, or paired iOS hardware with the Remote app installed for user input. Users with the beta running on their devices report that now, they can pair any Bluetooth keyboard and navigate using arrow keys, plus type entries into any text field. It’s a nice addition in itself, because it allows for much easier search, especially with small, media center-targeted hardware keyboards like Logitech’s diNovo Mini.
Bluetooth is also an addition that could bear more fruit down the road, however, depending on Apple’s plans for its inexpensive home theatre box. Another user with the beta installed found a featured section for apps and games on his home screen, which is most likely just an error showing content meant for iOS mobile devices on the Apple TV. But it raises the question once again of whether Apple might want to open up the platform to software beyond the limited offerings it provides now with specific partners. A full-features app store could bring an incredible wealth of games to the Apple TV, beyond what’s available through AirPlay mirroring with iOS devices. And should that ever happen, having Bluetooth input device support becomes not just a nice convenience, but a potential killer feature for an iOS-powered home gaming console. Already, iOS titles are approaching console quality; imagine if they could be made available to a $99 streaming device, too.
Adding Bluetooth could also open the doors for the introduction of A2DP audio accessories, though for now, it looks like only keyboards are allowed to connect to the Apple TV. Bringing audio connectivity could allow for the creation of remotes with integrated mics for using Siri and voice commands, which is a natural next step for living room iOS-based devices.
This is far from a guarantee that Apple will introduce expanded Bluetooth functionality to its Apple TV, but CEO Tim Cook did say in his recent interview with Bloomberg that the device has gone beyond being merely a “hobby” for Apple. Content partnerships that bring live television and cable content into the platform are seen as a key ingredient for any expansion of Apple’s living room presence, but equally important could be delivering an experience that supports a variety of control inputs. Unlocking Bluetooth offers a world of expansion options (controllers like the Duo Gamer for iPhones and iPads are a nice real-world example of what that has enabled on Apple’s mobile platform), and the best part is, it looks like Apple is planting seeds with hardware that’s already in consumer hands, rather than saving it for future devices.