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‘Universal Search’ on the Apple TV will be a lot more helpful than we thought

October 4th, 2015 at 3:30 PM
Apple TV Universal Search

One of the more compelling new features on the upcoming Apple TV is something Apple is calling Universal Search. As opposed to the status-quo today, where users have to hop in and out of different apps in order to find what programming is available where, Universal Search will allow users to quicky search across a number of varying services to find what they’re looking for. In other words, imagine Universal Search as a unifying layer that sits atop all of the content available via Apple TV’s many media apps.

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At launch, the fourth-gen Apple TV will be able to search for programming across iTunes, Netflix, Hulu, Showtime, and HBO. So if you’re looking to catch up on, say, season 3 of Dexter, you can simply enter a search and Apple TV will scour all of the aformentioned services for you. The days of individualized searches across multiple apps will soon be long gone.

Now that’s all well and good, but what happens when certain seasons of a show are spread out across multiple services? How might the Apple TV handle that?

Not to worry, Apple CEO Tim Cook recently divulged in an interview with Buzzfeed that search results from the iTunes Store won’t be given first billing.

… If I’m a Netflix subscriber and I want to binge-watch a five-season series, will an Apple TV search tell me that the first three seasons are available to me for free on Netflix, the fourth is available for purchase on iTunes, and the fifth is available only on HBO? Or will it leave me to work that out myself?

Cook said the former scenario is the one Apple’s implemented. “It will be clear which service is free,” he said. In other words, Apple will show each season or episode in all the services in which it’s available to you and iTunes if they have it. So you would see options for Netflix, iTunes, and HBO, if all three had the content and you were subscribed to Netflix and HBOGo.

This is particularly awesome given that shows on Netflix seem to be cycled in and out more quickly than most users can realistically keep track of.

What’s more, Cook also revealed that Apple is planning to offer developers an API so that other apps can be included under the Universal Search umbrella in the future.

“At launch we’ll have iTunes, Netflix, Hulu, Showtime, and HBO — so we’ll have five major inputs into universal search initially,” Cook told Buzzfeed. “But we’re also opening an API, so that others can join in.”

The Apple TV is slated to launch sometime later this month, but Apple has yet to give out a firm release date. Pricing wise, recall that a 32GB model will set you back about $149 while a 64GB model will be priced at $199.

A life long Mac user and Apple enthusiast, Yoni Heisler has been writing about Apple and the tech industry at large for over 6 years. His writing has appeared in Edible Apple, Network World, MacLife, Macworld UK, and most recently, TUAW. When not writing about and analyzing the latest happenings with Apple, Yoni enjoys catching Improv shows in Chicago, playing soccer, and cultivating new TV show addictions, the most recent examples being The Walking Dead and Broad City.

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