Geek Toys – The future of Apple TV

As WWDC approaches, I once again hope for a new Apple TV. The Apple TApple TVV has so much potential, and so much disappointment associated with it. Will WWDC be the time when we finally see an update? The bigger question is, with such strong competition from other products, has Apple already missed the boat?
I’ve spent quite a bit of time thinking about what I would like to see in a new Apple TV. There has been a lot of change in the last few months around home entertainment, and if Apple really wants to own the space, it has to adapt to compete. There are some key features that I think could make Apple TV ready to own the space again.

Siri

When I hear people discuss using Siri on an Apple TV, I rolled my eyes. I hate Siri. I refuse to use Siri. However, that changed just a little when I received an Amazon Echo. Amazon has knocked voice recognition out of the park! Alexa is fast, error free, and simply amazing. It is so good, I actually caught myself preparing to say “Thank you” to a piece of hardware! Each morning I ask Alexa for the news and my commute information. I use it when cooking for timers. Alexa is the only reason I use Prime Music. Let me repeat that. I began using Amazon Prime Music only because Alexa made it so easy. Make Siri that good on an AppleTV, and I get it now.

Facetime HD camera and mic

I do not understand why this hasn’t happened before. An Apple TV that could connect via FaceTime, is a no brainer in my opinion. Besides the ability to talk with relatives and friends through a TV, a camera could provide a lot of other features. The camera or mic could be used as a detector for HomeKit automation. Add some face recognition, and use it to choose the profile, and permit or deny content based on age restrictions. The list goes on and on.

HomeKit Integration

Imagine the Apple TV turning on lights when motion or sound is detected. It could also provide the remote view capabilities required by those of us who regularly travel and would like to check on our homes. This would be an easy way to integrate HomeKit and directly compete with the existing products on the market from Belkin and Wink and many other companies. I love my Wink Hub and the attached lights, sensors, and outlets. I hope that Apple gets the integration right.

4K

Apple has built the 5K iMac to encourage 4K content creation. 4K content only becomes valuable once there is an easy way to consume that content. Apple TV should be that avenue.

Glances and notifications

The notifications on Watch are the reason I love my watch. There is no reason why this same thing shouldn’t work as a pop-up on the Apple TV.

A decent remote!

Apple works hard to refine every detail of their products, which leads me to ask. What happened? The AppleTV Remote is simple, small, and sleek. It is also the worst of the worst of the entertainment hub remotes. It uses IR, which means it must be in direct line of site of the AppleTV. Anyone who has used both an Apple TV and a Roku or Amazon Fire TV understands what I am talking about. The Roku and Fire TV remotes can be oriented in any direction, and yet they still work. The devices themselves can be hidden behind TVs or in closets and they still work. Not so for the AppleTV. It is time to move to BluetoothLE for the remote and show IR the door.

Games, apps, blah blah, blah.

I don’t play games. I try to care…but I don’t.

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The Internet of Things begins to mature with Apple HomeKit

One statement that I have repeated many times is that the Internet of Things (IoT) will not mature until a non-technical person can buy a myriad of devices and configure them all through a common interface. Apple HomeKit seems to be that interface. There are a few things that I like about the announcement:

  • Apple isn’t going to make outlets, switches, and thermostats. They are leaving that up to the experts. 
  • Apple makes great interfaces, and I believe they are capable of doing the same for Home Automation.
  • The IOS user base is large enough to make this market explode. With an increased user base, comes more products.

Again, if you didn’t read it correctly the first time. This market is about to explode. 

One last thought. Apple started with the user, just like they did with iPhones. How many iPhones are now in our corporate environments? What happens when HomeKit migrates into the office?

Hey Apple, Help Us, Help You!

When the iPhone debuted on the AT&T network, AT&T was clearly not expecting the demand that was created. They were caught off-guard by the influx of customers, and more importantly they were surprised by the data consumption of users, who had purchased a device created to consume data. Problems were reported at a ridiculous rate, and rumors abounded everywhere within the Tech blogs that Apple was threatening to take their ball phone and go home to Verizon if AT&T didn’t do something fast.

In the mean time, Apple began working on ways of optimizing the iPhones use of the carriers network, and kept pushing AT&T for improvements. It took AT&T a couple years, and a LOT of money to build their network up. Some people will argue that if the iPhone had not been made available on other carriers that AT&T would still be having issues.

Apple studies, lives and dies by user experience. They knew that a poorly performing network would reflect on their device. It was not enough to simply blame the network. If the network wasn’t available, then features of their phone weren’t available either.

With that in mind… Apple DOES NOT provide developer access to wireless API’s in IOS. Troubleshooting WLAN issues for IOS devices can only be accomplished from the infrastructure side. Without jailbreaking an iPhone, there is no way to access RSSI, SNR, or other WLAN statistics.

Which device is best for troubleshooting iPad connectivity issues on a WLAN? If you answer anything other than “another iPad”, go directly to jail, do not pass go, and do not collect $200. This is an oversight decision that Apple needs to quickly reconsider.

Apple, we are the network. Without WLAN Engineers, iPads and iPhones won’t function correctly on corporate networks. Without the proper tools, WLAN engineers cannot support IOS devices when there are issues on the WLAN. Without tools, our network problems reflect on your devices. Help US, help YOU.

Supporting Apple devices on the WLAN

Since the iPad was released, it has received a mixed welcome within Enterprise environments. While a lot companies have at least some plan to move forward with iPads, these drivers are usually coming from the business side, instead of IT. In-fact, most IT shops are being dragged into IOS support with strong reluctance.

The broad questions which are causing resistance can be summed up in one word: SUPPORT. IT departments must figure out how to support the device in multiple areas. Information integrity and control, end-user support, and connectivity support all must be dealt with. Since this is a networking blog, I want to deal with the last one; and will do so in the next two articles.

Supporting iPads on the network is more complex than connecting them to an SSID and providing login credentials. If we look at the standard iPad user in most organizations, we see a highly mobile user, users who also have laptops. Most of these users requested an iPad after having a positive experience with their company issued iPhones. That translates to a user having three wireless devices at there desk at any given time: their laptop, their iPhone and their iPad.

To understand the problem this creates, let’s look at how we survey for a wireless network. There are two considerations: coverage and capacity.

Wireless Coverage
A survey can be  based on square footage, and provide a certain RSSI from wall-to-wall. This is a perfectly acceptable way to survey if everyone has their own office. However in Cube-ville, a single AP may cover 100 desk or more. If each desk has one wireless device, you now have a physical medium (the channel or airspace) that is incapable of supporting all of the connected clients.

Wireless Capacity
The other way to perform a wireless survey is based on capacity. In a high capacity environment, the wireless spectrum, not the AP is the bottleneck. More on this later…

In a capacity based scenario, a number of desk are chosen, lets say 25. For every 25 desk, there is an AP. Those AP’s are placed based on coverage area, and in to minimize channel overlap. For the same 100 desk in Cube-ville, you now have 4 AP’s. Since there will be channel overlap, the radios are turned way down, and in general, the physical medium is now capable of handling the number of clients.

Taking this environment to the next step, each desk gets an iPhone, and a few months later, 1 in 4 request an iPad. We can safely assume that complaints will begin coming into IT about the wireless network. The AP airspace that was previously servicing 25 clients now contends with 62 per AP. Time for another wireless survey and at least twice as many AP’s!

Now we can see the problem that many companies are facing. The i-devices are here, and businesses seem to love them. The network team must begin planning and building now. I would like to make a few suggestions which might keep network teams from finding themselves behind the eight  ball.

  • Budget to begin surveying your high density environments now.
  • Develop a plan for support, complete with timelines and cost. Present this to the highest management level you can reach, so that it can be considered as the business begins planning device deployments.
  • If your company has a charge-back system for devices, be certain a cost is associated with each IOS device to support the wireless network going forward.
  • Be certain to include a survey and additional equipment as a cost of any iPad rollout projects, make certain the business can see the total cost of deploying iPads and iPhones.
  • Finally, be first in line to get an iPad if you don’t already have one. You can’t support what you don’t understand; besides, it really is a great device.

I realize that there are other options out there other than the “i” devices. However, I haven’t heard of, or seen, a single enterprise level roll out. However, these rules apply to the world of Android and Windows too. More devices per square foot equals more demand on the wireless network.