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Alongside the introduction of the current Apple TV design in fall 2010, Apple launched AirPlay. In short, AirPlay allows a user to watch a movie, listen to a song, or view a photo on an iPhone, iPad, iPod touch (or Mac in some cases) and stream that content to the Apple TV. AirPlay typically works well and we have even considered it a major innovation in the living room appliances space. Apple has continued to enhance AirPlay over the past few years, allowing the service to integrate with iTunes in the Cloud and function without a WiFi connection.

With OS X Yosemite and iOS 8, Apple has taken the AirPlay idea to new levels. This fall, as Apple previewed at WWDC earlier this month, a user can begin writing an email, viewing a webpage, or sending a text message on one Apple device, and then walk up to a different Apple product and continue that action. This feature is called Handoff and is part of a new suite of features called Continuity. Unlike AirPlay, a click to stream the content is not necessary.

Now, users running the latest iOS, OS X, and Apple TV betas are reporting that Apple could also be working on Handoff and Continuity features for the Apple TV set-top box…

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The above notification is appearing on some OS X Yosemite machines on the same local WiFi network as Apple TVs running the new 7.0 beta software. This indicates that Yosemite Macs are expecting to be able to integrate with the Apple TV via Handoff.

Unfortunately, there does not appear to be any references on either the new Apple TV software or OS X as to what Handoff between iOS devices/Macs and Apple TVs could mean, but there are some speculative possibilities.

Instead of needing to use AirPlay, Continuity and Handoff could technically allow a person to begin watching a movie on their iPad or iPhone, walk into their house, and that content will immediately and automatically begin playing on the Apple TV instead. Differentiating from AirPlay, there is no streaming from the iOS device involved and the process requires little to no user input. The content, instead, could be streamed to the Apple TV from the user’s iTunes in the Cloud account.

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The same technology could be used for automatically handing off an iTunes Radio playlist, a song from iTunes Match or iTunes in the Cloud, or even photos from the new iCloud Photo Library feature. It will be interesting to see if Apple opens up Continuity and Handoff to third-party developers who have applications on both the Apple TV and iOS. An imaginable scenario is a user watching a video on Netflix or Vevo on their iPad and then being able to automatically continue doing so on their Apple TV.

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Handoff requires devices with a Bluetooth 4.0 low-energy chip to function, and the latest third-generation Apple TV includes that hardware. Notably, the 2010 second-generation Apple TV does not support Bluetooth 4.0, and it coincidentally will not be receiving the Apple TV 7.0 software update in the fall.

Of course, this pop-up message indicating Continuity for Apple TV could simply be a bug or just an indication that Apple is considering the feature, but based on Apple’s push for more tightly integrating all of its devices, it definitely makes sense for Apple to allow Handoff for Apple TV. The new Apple TV update will arrive in the fall around the same timeframe as iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite. Apple is also said to be working on an updated version of the Apple TV set-top box with a redesigned user-interface, so perhaps these new features could tie into the announcements surrounding that future hardware.

Apple TV gaining Continuity and Handoff will further embed the device within Apple’s larger ecosystem of hardware, opening up the door for future hardware sales, more content downloads, and perhaps, one day, a new platform for App Store developers.

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10 Responses to “Apple TV likely to gain Continuity this fall, allowing tighter integration with Mac & iOS”

  1. What’s really gonna be interesting is seeing Continuity/Handoff (what’s the difference between those 2 terms?) integration into the heavily rumored iWatch.

    With Continuity, HomeKit, HealthKit, the red carpet is clearly being rolled out.

    • Jonny says:

      If I understand correctly, Handoff is the blanket term for: handing off applications between devices, making/receiving phone calls on non-iPhones (Mac/iPad), sending/receiving SMS messages on non-iPhones, and the new Instant Hotspot feature.

    • rahhbriley says:

      I believe Handoff is one specific feature in a suite of features, known as Continuity. Other features help the devices integrate, also, like the the calling and texting features now on Mac, etc.

    • My understanding is the Continuity includes other features such as iCloud that maintain the seamless experience. Continuity covers improved iCloud syncing, the new iCloud Drive, Handoff itself, answering Phone calls on OS X, seeing SMS texts in Messages and Instant Hotspot.

  2. hmurchison says:

    Continuity also makes sense from the standpoint of gaming. Should the nextgen Apple TV be opened up to 3rd party developers the need for space shifting games and other apps suitable for TV display will become desired.

  3. It would take a lot more than a price drop to convince me to buy an Apple TV in the UK. With no support even for the BBC iPlayer, let alone Amazon Instant Video, Now TV, 4OD, MUBI, or Animax, the ATV remains the worst UK streaming box by far

    • valanchan says:

      I just bought an AppleTV for my mum.
      Not really for itself but as a connection from the big screen to her iPad mini.

      She can now cut the cable cord and the AppleTV pays for itself after two months.

      Apple should really consider adding it as a bundle price to new device buyers.

  4. I hope Apple TV 3G will have new interface… I just bought it last year… But if they have currently a beta software, I think even with a new hardware, 3G Apple TV will be updated.
    And good for Continuity! Apple become a real ecosystem with their differents devices!

  5. Paul Kerr says:

    Continuity on Apple TV means apps on Apple TV. Either it will be just streaming media (iTunes, FaceTime, iPhone and perhaps YouTube) or it will be full-blown apps, and Apple TV moves towards becoming the first “desktop” iDevice. The current set of TV-channel like apps — each with its own content browsing — has overgrown the Apple TV’s UI, which needs to be rebuilt from the ground up with a shared content browser. At that point, the Apple TV becomes the premiere on-demand and pay TV delivery system.

    Apple can offer the networks an alternative to Aereo for over the air channels, with licensed access to local broadcasts of live TV. It’s just like the situation that faced music companies with unlicensed music flooding the internet. They cut deals with Apple out of fear of impending doom and iTunes took off. This will make the Apple TV an alternative delivery device for most if not all of the content carried by cable companies.

    To make all of this possible, and attractive to their potential licensing partners, Apple needs to ramp up the sales volume by an order of magnitude. Continuity for apps would help drive that increase.