|LUS Weather App (click to enlarge)|
The weather app is an obvious example of a useful app. Wasn't "weather" on your first smartphone homescreen? It pops up as a vertical Iphone-like panel on left side of your screen. Simple...and you can go in and change the location if you really want to. (It's cold and rainy in Vancouver, for those who want to know.) The weather app appears over the ongoing show as a translucent overlay...the show underneath goes on.
This all works because the that little Motorola set top box from LUS is really a small computer. It can be programmed to do pretty much anything that a not-too-powerful media computer or smartphone can do. The real issue is having the software to make this potential real. In our case this is Microsoft's MediaRoom, the new UI/media manager that LUS brought onboard relatively recently. One of the big advantages of going with MediaRoom is that it brings along the entire MS ecosystem (one of its chief disadvantages too...). So apps developed by Microsoft, Alcatel-Lucent, or any third-party producer targeting AT&T or numerous national telecoms across the world that use MediaRoom will be easily deployed in Lafayette—we won't have to reinvent the wheel. (This also means that cool apps developed for LUS will have a world-wide market.) Similarly, the hooks for smartphone apps and computer-based interaction are also well-developed. I'm looking forward to scheduling online and using my smartphone as a universal remote.
There are those who question whether folks need or want apps on their TV. There were folks who felt the same about apps on a phone. (Wasn't that a truly weird and silly idea only 5 years ago? How quickly perceptions change.) The apps that have been successful on the smartphone were aimed at individual users. It will be very interesting to see what will be successful on the more social device that a TV screen is in many homes.
So how do you get to see these app and how are they used?
|The Apps Dashboard|
You might ask yourself why the "Extras" selection only shows an "Apps Dashboard" function; wouldn't it have been easier and more efficient to just access your apps by calling it that and make it a one click, easy-as-pie function? Why make everyone click twice? Well, almost certainly because they are thinking about other things to put below "Apps Dashboard" in the Extras section. And there is a clue hidden elsewhere in the system.
|The Main Interactive Menu...not yet rebranded|
The "PIN Application" is ugly and it apparently only exists to allow you to enter your PIN and validate who you are. That's likely to be there for the next two slots; you'd likely need to validate yourself via your account identity to start up Caller ID and surely would need it to enter Email.
The Widi is more mysterious but I suspect that it stands in for a technology called WiDi for WiFi Direct, which is a standard promulgated by the wifi alliance. The technology allows you to "throw" your computer screen onto the TV, and the hardware is pretty widely available. (See an explanitory video.) So you could share YouTube videos, show your photos, or watch Netflix on the TV screen via your computer wirelessly. The full standard would let you you replicate your computer screen to the TV, use the TV as a second monitor displaying its own content, or simply extend the computer screen so that the active area spanned both screens. The advantage of having WiDi available on your set top box is that 1) you wouldn't need to put yet another $110+ dollar box in your stack, a wifi dongle would suffice and 2) conceivably the App could be made multi-functional...there are more than one set of wireless standards out there.
So there you have it. Apps on your TV here in Lafayette.
Tip o' the hat to Raymond Camden over at LafayetteTech who first noticed the new functions and posted it to the board...LafayetteTech is a great place to hang out; if you're at all techy check it out and join.