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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.
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Extra Vegetables, Control4 and Apple TV Version 1: match made in heaven.
October 22, 2010 by Julie Jacobson

If you like integrating Apple TV with home control, it’s best to stick with the original model rather than “upgrade” to the new Apple TV 2.

Autonomic Controls and Extra Vegetables, two of the original and most popular creators of two-way Apple TV drivers, tell our sister publication CE Pro that the new Apple TV does not lend itself to integration.

“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.”

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?

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Julie Jacobson - Editor-at-large, CE Pro
Julie Jacobson is co-founder of EH Publishing and currently spends most of her time writing for CE Pro, mostly in the areas of home automation, networked A/V and the business of home systems integration. She majored in Economics at the University of Michigan, earned an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin, and has never taken a journalism class in her life. Julie is a washed-up Ultimate Frisbee player with the scars to prove it. Follow her on Twitter @juliejacobson.

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