For years, and years, and years, people have been asking about getting native applications on the Apple TV. There’s a pretty long list of benefits, and even a longer list of reasons why it may not make sense. AirWeb, an app for your iPhone that’s designed to turn your Apple TV into a web browser through AirPlay is one of those things that illustrates that we “do not need apps on the Apple TV” realm.
AirWeb pushes webpages directly to your Apple TV, through AirPlay and then turns your phone into a trackpad, complete with a bunch of gestures to control the screen and browser on your television. You can zoom in and out, scroll, and jump back and forward using the gestures you would expect from a browser application.
The best part about AirWeb is that it does it at fullscreen and not in some horrendous mirroring mode like Safari does when you engage AirPlay. That’s pretty huge considering you’re probably sitting a couple of feet away from the TV when you’re surfing the web.
The app is minimal, but trust me, this isn’t a knock on the app. AirWeb is a clever solution to a rather complicated problem for people looking to surf the web on an Apple TV. As long as you’re getting decent speeds across your home network, AirPlay kinda makes the need for applications on the Apple TV a moot point.
AirWeb demonstrates both the potential and power of having apps integrate intelligently with the television (full screen optimizations), as well as the lack of necessity for apps on the Apple TV natively at the same time. If all of our favourite developers took a moment and figured out how to optimize their applications for AirPlay, we wouldn’t need to have a continuous discussions about bringing apps to the Apple TV.
What we don’t want is a bunch of remote applications to control the Apple TV in unique ways. There should be some kind of API for that so Apple’s remote application remains front and centre, but I’m not a developer and I have no idea exactly what that would entail for Apple or third party software developers.
What I do know is that AirWeb just proved that there’s a place for applications running through the Apple TV. Now, if the app would just let me bookmark my favourite sites, and take advantage of Apple’s icon system for creating short cuts, but directly within the app, then I’d use this thing almost daily.