Social Setup for the Apple TV

My former colleague, Mike Speiser (who’s now over at Sutter Hill Ventures), recently suggested his vision of where Apple TV should be heading.

With the rumored Apple TV-minus-the-box-plus-the-TV unit days from being announced, I wanted to add one more set of thoughts to his before any such unveiling.

Mike was one of the folks behind Yahoo! Mash, a testbed for some of Yahoo!’s social efforts soon to be released. In my mind, Mash’s key feature was the ability for anyone to create a profile for someone who hadn’t yet joined the service. The thinking was that some folks just don’t want to spend the time setting things up… but if someone already did all the work, why not? (And, as someone who has had to setup innumerable electronics and computer purchases for others, I can attest to the success of such efforts; knock out most of the setup hassles, and you’ve got a happy user you’d otherwise have never had.)

In a similar vein, why not offer the ability for users to setup and customize software profiles for others on the Apple TV? There’s a reason people still joke about how hard it is for their parents to setup a VCR: configuring home electronics is never as easy as you’d like. Mac users are generally well known for their evangelization of the Apple platform; why not give them an opportunity to prove it?

My thinking is this: Apple should provide a Mac andWindows application (or Web app) that allows a user to specify the following settings:

  • WiFi settings
  • iTunes Library pairing
  • Television model (with supported resolutions)
  • Cable provider and channel lineup (Apple TV doesn’t use this now, but if they ever want to tackle PVR, this would be good info to get)
  • YouTube username
  • Flickr username (and usernames of Contacts to track)
  • MobileMe username
  • Slideshow settings
  • Podcast subscriptions

Once entered, the application can generate a patchstick disc image and load it directly onto a USB thumb drive, much in the same way that Boxee’s and XBMC’s patchstick is created. With this USB drive, a user could then plug it into their Apple TV, restart the unit, and have their settings injected in a matter of minutes. Even if this were just for individuals to do for themselves (i.e. not to help setup someone else’s Apple TV), the time (and frustration) savings would be considerable.

With that simple application, Apple could take the hassle out of an already-somewhat-hassle-free, living room electronics experience. And, with that, take on a bigger home entertainment marketshare.

Fortunately, no one waited for Apple to create the Boxee patchstick to extend the Apple TV. For those capable, why not create a patchstick creator to do just this?


1 Comment »

  1. Tim said,

    October 12, 2008 @ 10:16 am

    Great article, with some intriguing idea! I just discovered your Blog – coming over from the Yahoo Dev Blog and will be sure to subscribe to your RSS feed right now. I'm a new Mac/iPhone convert going on about 12 months now.

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