On removal of Apple TV Remote app, former engineer remembers it inspired Steve Jobs into making Siri Remote

Last week Apple removed the Apple TV “Remote” app from the App Store, a tool that was introduced as the iTunes Remote before being turned into a controller for the Apple TV. Apple’s removal of the app leaves users with the option of using the bundled Siri Remote for the Apple TV, or the software-based version for their iOS devices, baked into Control Center.

Following the discontinuation of the standalone “Remote” app for Apple TV, a former Apple engineer took to Twitter to share some interesting details about the app’s conception and design.

Apple TV Remote app inspired Steve Jobs into making Siri Remote

A series of tweets posted by former Apple engineer Alan Cannistraro, who originally worked on the app, help shed light on the evolution of the Remote app, starting from its first code written in 2006. According to Cannistraro, he started to write code before he was able to see the iPhone user interface, by using UI elements of his own creation.

In his tweets, the former designer explains that the Remote app was Apple’s first production app that the App Store team used to “test their upload flow” to the Store, and while it only shipped with iTunes and Apple TV controls, early prototypes were a lot more functional.

“While we shipped it only with iTunes and ‌Apple TV‌ control, my prototype also allowed me to turn on/off lights, TVs and Receivers (via an IR adaptor), and save and resume a room’s state as a “Scene”.

A year later (2009) I had also built prototypes in Remote that would let your phone touchscreen be your mouse for your computer, and to interact with photos, applications (the original TouchBar) and screensavers on your Mac.

I was pitching a larger idea around device communication that never got off the ground (too early?). Predecessor to HomeKit & AirPlay. I had devices from Denon, Marantz, Sharp that spoke a protocol I designed so you could turn them on/off, change inputs and volume, tone, etc.”

Cannistraro says he then showed the app to then-Apple CEO Steve Jobs, who was so impressed with the way it allowed users to control Apple TV with swipes and gestures that he wanted the next hardware Apple TV remote to work similarly.

“In 2010, I sat down with with Steve to show him how Remote controlled Apple TV with swipes, and he said, “our next Apple TV Remote should be this without a screen”. It took five years (lots of stuff paused when Steve died), but eventually Siri Remote came out and was just that.”

Lastly, Cannistraro says he believes that “The ultimate vision for Remote still has not been realized, by anyone.”, and that smart home control remains a “disjointed experience” on any ecosystem. “‌HomeKit‌ and Alexa are getting us closer,” he says, “but there is still much to do to make the rooms we live in into elegant, ambient, intelligent experiences. Working on it.”

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Mobile gaming editor for iThinkDifferent