HDMI Dongles

As Amazon and Apple prepare new tv boxes that likely just spit out HDMI, there’s of course speculation about their form factor being an HDMI stick like the Chromecast.

There’s a few problems with this concept and this form factor in general:

  • Power over HDMI isn’t here yet, so an ugly USB or other additional power cable is necessary
  • Being behind the TV requires Bluetooth control. While IR is awful for many valid reasons, at least it doesn’t need to be paired. And yes, I do expect a real remote from an Apple device. The 6-way remote is what makes the AppleTV easier than a Mac Mini or an iOS device hooked up via HDMI.
  • Too easy to not fit. The original iPod Shuffle blocked ports or didn’t stick far enough into recessed USB ports. If the device isn’t too fat to be a problem, and the HDMI male end sticks out far enough for all TVs, it could still risk being too long. I have sets that barely fit the old Monoprice HDMI cables with ferrite cores on them (and those are flexible).
  • Apple likes their products to be seen. They want your visitors to see the black puck (in a prominent location because it needs to receive IR) and ask what it is. It can’t do that behind the TV.
  • Apple doesn’t need to shrink the puck so much that they can’t pack an A7X into it.

I’m still of the belief that the reason MFI Bluetooth controllers of the extended layout require player 1-4 LEDs is because games are coming to the AppleTV. At retina iPad resolution, the A7X is already driving games at sizes greater than 1080p (albeit with simpler assets than console games) and it’s probably only 2 generations at most from supporting a 4K rendering context (again, with simpler assets than console games… for now).

The AppleTV doesn’t need to get smaller. It needs to get more powerful and maintain a $99 or $199 price point. If Apple does go into the dongle direction, I’d say that will be the final nail in the coffin for an AppleTV app store.