A Short Interview With iOS Developer Steve Troughton-Smith, Discussing Recent Apple TV Hacks And MobileX

I recently wrote an article which covered the hype surrounding the development of MobileX for the Apple TV allowing iOS applications to run natively on the device. As a quick summary, developer Steven Troughton-Smith has been working to enhance the functionality of the fantastic, but often under used Apple TV device by acquiring MobileX which is effectively a re-implementation of what we know as Springboard on other iOS devices.

I was fortunate enough to grab a few minutes with Steven this afternoon and posed him a few questions which had been on my mind. I am a huge fan of the Apple TV, and it has often perplexed me that the jailbreak community has not taken more of an interest in the device. To see Troughton-Smith taking a passionate interest in the device brigs great happiness to me personally, and I’m sure countless others. He was gracious enough to take time out of his working day to reply me back with his very interesting answers to my questions.


RP: What compelled you to begin getting involved in the Apple TV side of things?

Steven: I’ve been dying to do more with the AppleTV since 2007; I’ve always thought the AppleTV should have an SDK, but Apple has seemingly decided that AirPlay is the best they can offer. I don’t agree with that – I don’t think the TV should be a dumb screen for content from other devices.

RP: Could you give me a brief description of what MobileX is and what it potentially represents for users?

Steven: MobileX is a window manager and rendering system for iOS apps; a re-implementation of everything Apple’s SpringBoard app does. As far as the iOS apps are concerned, they’re running on an iPhone or iPad, except this whole thing was built from scratch. It wasn’t originally designed for AppleTV, but I realized the potential for AppleTV was greater than using MobileX as a tech demo on an iPad. MobileX by itself doesn’t mean much yet, but watch this space (I’m intentionally trying not to over promise right now).

RP: What is your (and the people you are working with) long term goal for the project?

Steven: I acquired MobileX outright with the intent to bring apps to AppleTV. My long term goal is to prove to Apple that they should officially allow apps for AppleTV, much like the original jailbreak apps influenced Apple’s decision to create an App Store on the iPhone. To do this, we will need to build an app environment for the AppleTV, an SDK so developers can make apps (including design guidelines, UI frameworks, etc, to build a good foundation), and a storefront to allow people to download/buy apps. If we can show Apple that this doesn’t suck, then with luck they will open up the AppleTV to developers. What MobileX will allow, though, potentially reaches far beyond the television set – the AppleTV is effectively a tiny $99 iOS-based computer. Paired with a keyboard and mouse (or a Wiimote, or a game controller, or what have you), and with custom-built apps, it could in theory be used in everything from home offices to kiosks to in-vehicle systems. The iOS developer base is massive, and this basically unlocks the device to do whatever they can dream up.

RP: A bit about you – what is your professional working history like?

Steven: Not much to tell here! I’m an independent developer – everything I make is my own. I dropped out of college to make apps, and day-to-day I’m producing stuff for my business, High Caffeine Content. I also work at Tethras Technologies as the Mobile Architect, and have worked at iOS development shops like Tapadoo in the past. ( http://ie.linkedin.com/in/steventroughtonsmith for any more context ).

I’d like to thank Steven for taking the time to give us this insight and reiterate his remarks about not over promising anything. His work is still in the early stages, but the results are there for all to see. His visions for the long term future of the Apple TV are commendable and with any luck will come to fruition. Stay tuned for future updates and make sure you check out Stevens professional portfolio.

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