Apple TV Could Finally Unlock Its Full Potential This Year

The Apple TV hasn't evolved much over the last couple of years. Sure, it's gotten a handful of new apps, but the format—locked down, bland—has stayed the same since its 2010 redesign. But while Apple didn't talk about its set-top box much at its developer conference this month, it showed that it finally has the pieces in place to turn Apple TV into a living room behemoth.

Seamless Syncing

Continuity, Apple's tagline for apps that can seamlessly sync between Mac and iOS, looks to be headed to the Apple TV, according to 9to5Mac. What would that mean in practice? Imagine walking inside your home while playing a movie on your iPhone. With one tap, you can pick up where you left off on your Apple TV, without having to use AirPlay and without tying up your phone.

That same implementation could also be used for iTunes Radio, and could potentially work for notifications as well, showing you things like who is calling your phone on your Apple TV, so that you don't have to dig into your pocket during an Archer marathon. Continuity also allows for your Mac to use your iPhone as a hotspot without having to unlock your phone, which could be great for the Apple TV when you're on the road.

Total Home Control

Apple also announced HomeKit at WWDC, a collection of tools designed to allow you to control automated parts of your home from your iOS device. Things like your thermostat, security system, smart appliances, and lights will be able to be controlled and managed from your iOS 8 device. If it comes to the Apple TV, it could quickly evolve from a simple entertainment console to a command center for your home.

Sitting down in front of your TV, you could control a number of different devices and appliances around your house. Too cold while you're watching Netflix? Turn down your thermostat without having to reach for your iPhone. The Apple TV could easily become the center of your smart home, an unthinkable outcome just two years ago.

Leveling Up

Apple also introduced Metal at WWDC, a new developer mechanism for creating games on iOS that offers ten times the performance of the current gaming engine. That may be a bit overkill for your iPad, but it's powerful enough to make the Apple TV a proper gaming platform. Combine that with iOS 7 and its API for third-party gaming controllers that will be Apple-TV compatible, and you've got yourself a gaming workhorse that would put Fire TV to shame.

Getting into gaming in the living room can be an easy transition for Apple, as a large portion of the over 1.2 million apps in the App Store are games, many of which could be ported to an Apple TV.

Open Season

To create a proper gaming device, Apple would need to create an App Store and release an SDK for the Apple TV, a long overdue move that would be benefit all parties involved. More channels could be added, console games could potentially be ported from Xbox One and PS4 games, you and I would be happy, and Apple would make a ton of money. Most of these updates are software-based, and could breathe new life into some of the 20 million Apple TVs sold to date

The last piece of the Apple TV puzzle would be to give it cable box powers, but it appears it still can't nail down the content deals with cable providers to make it a reality yet, and when it does, a deal may invite scrutiny from regulators. But even without replacing your clunky Comcast-provided energy hog, Apple TV has all the parts in place to be incredibly potent practically overnight.

If what we saw at WWDC—an Apple that is willing to cut down some of the "walled garden"—is any indication of Apple's new demeanor and direction, we may actually see this version of the Apple TV (or something better) before the year is out. A more open Apple means a better experience, and better products for everyone.