Apple TV jailbreak: Imagine the possibilities

The best is ahead, as as hackers and developers explore Apple's liberated set-top box.

The jailbreaking of Apple TV, days after shipping, is no surprise. The real delight will come in the weeks and months ahead, as hackers and developers start figuring out what to do with Apple's liberated set-top box.

Understanding the Jailbreak

Apple didn't design a new operating system for Apple TV. Instead, the device runs iOS 4.1, using an app known as Lowtide to provide the interface. I'm no hacker, but this would suggest that jailbroken Apple TV apps will run independently of the main interface, unlike the iPhone, in which jailbroken apps appear alongside legitimate ones.

The iPhone Dev-Team, which claimed the Apple TV hack, seems to confirm this reasoning: "Literally the only UI application on the ATV is Lowtide.app, but now the window is open for jailbroken apps of all varieties," says the Dev-Team's blog.

The bottom line: Jailbroken Apple TVs may need an additional interface to access unauthorized content.

iOS Apps are Iffy

A recent Apple TV teardown showed potential for apps, with 256 MB of system memory and 8 GB of flash storage, but the prospect of porting iOS apps to Apple TV seems shaky.

Smartphone apps would look awful in TV dimensions, and more importantly, there's no input method. Some people have suggested that an iPhone or iPad could be used to control these apps, but then, what's the point?

New Apps are Likely

As in the iPhone's early days, expect to see apps designed specifically for jailbroken Apple TVs. I'm imagining a Web browser, PlayOn, video portals like Justin.tv, and streaming music apps like Pandora and MOG.

Widgets for weather and stocks, like those used on the lock screen in jailbroken iPhones, would also be a nice touch.

Gaming Potential

Over at Cult of Mac, John Brownlee has floated a few possibilities for jailbroken Apple TV apps, including the idea of classic video game emulators. It's an intriguing concept -- emulators are a mainstay of every hacked video game console -- but it presents a snag: How would you control them?

One possibility is Nintendo's Wii Remote, which has been supported in emulators for jailbroken iPhones. Bluetooth is apparently included in Apple TV's firmware, so hackers may be able to Bluetooth controllers for serious gaming.

Keep in mind that the Apple TV jailbreak is not yet public, so stay clear of any websites claiming to offer the jailbreak for download.

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Jared Newman

PC World (US online)
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