Next-Gen Apple TV Doesn’t Play Nice with Home Control
With diskless design and proprietary communications, next-gen Apple TV evades integration with third-party control systems. Autonomic, Extra Vegetables explain options.
“We confirmed that the new device has changed the protocol in a manner that makes it controllable only by other Apple devices, as far as we can tell,” says Autonomic CEO Michael de Nigris.
Both Autonomic and Extra Vegetables offer software for controlling the original Apple TV over the home network using third-party home automation systems. Autonomic supports AMX, Crestron, NuVo, RTI and URC; EV supports Control4.
With the respective drivers and an Apple TV on the network, users can access their iTunes library with a Control4, Crestron or other touchscreen – without having to turn on the TV or computer.
Not so with Apple TV 2.
Apple TV 2 Changes Integration Landscape
Both Autonomic and Extra Vegetables have studied Apple TV 2, which was announced in September, and both agree with EV’s conclusion: “At the present time it is not possible to produce a driver for the new Apple TV.”
Next-gen Apple TV is tiny, efficient and cheap ... but not friendly to third-party control systems.
While the original Apple TV is a full-featured media server, version 2 is a media player, with no on-board hard drive. It requires a computer or other server on the network to stream stored content (which may defeat the purpose of Apple TV for some users).
At the same time, Apple changed the way Apple TV communicates with computers in the home. Users no longer associate one Apple TV with one iTunes library. Instead, Apple TVs are joined to the iTunes “Home Sharing” network.
This new scheme apparently has confounded third-party developers such as Autonomic and EV.
“Version 1 [Apple TV] utilized raw DACP, Digital Audio Control Protocol, which has been reverse engineered for some time now,” says de Nigris. “The new device still utilizes DACP, but within the new iTunes “Home Sharing” logical subnet, which is protected.”
EV puts it a little more bluntly:
The biggest problem is that the iPhone Remote App now communicates to the Apple TV using Apple’s proprietary encryption system. This is not open or published. Neither has it been cracked – and to do so would probably upset Apple and their lawyers!
Did Apple close the integration loop just to be a party pooper?
Probably not, according to de Nigris.
“I don’t believe the change was targeted at the third party control solutions that existed,” he says. “Rather, it’s a side effect of a diskless device and the migration to Home Sharing for media access.”
Can/Will the Apple TV Code be Cracked?
It seems all proprietary communications protocols get broken at some time or another. Should we expect the same with the new-generation Apple TV?
Julie Jacobson, recipient of the 2014 CEA TechHome Leadership Award, is co-founder of EH Publishing, producer of CE Pro, Electronic House, Commercial Integrator, Security Sales and other leading technology publications. She currently spends most of her time writing for CE Pro in the areas of home automation, security, networked A/V and the business of home systems integration. Julie majored in Economics at the University of Michigan, spent a year abroad at Cambridge University, earned an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin, and has never taken a journalism class in her life. She's a washed-up Ultimate Frisbee player currently residing in Carlsbad, Calif. Email Julie at email@example.com
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