updated 07:00 pm EST, Mon January 2, 2012
Using iPad apps at 720p, more possibilities
Using a scratch-written replacement for the normal iOS launcher known as "Springboard," developers Steve Troughton-Smith and a Canadian colleague known as TheMudKip have moved forward from their discovery that iOS apps can be run inside Apple TV's version of iOS and have now gotten full-screen iPad applications (that are normally landscape in orientation) to work at full 720p resolution. The find opens the door to eventual native Apple TV iOS apps.
Interestingly, in the course of creating a launcher for the iOS apps on Apple TV, Troughton-Smith reports that Apple TV can handle computer-like resolutions such as 1024x786. Whether this was just left over in the Apple TV version of iOS, which is a streamlined but similar version of the OS used in the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch or is intentionally included for future compatibility reasons isn't clear.
Users can of course "play" iOS apps on Apple TV currently through the use of AirPlay. What Troughton-Smith and TheMudKip are doing, however, goes beyond mirroring an existing iOS device and allows users to run iOS apps natively, either windowed or full-screen, and even run multiple apps side-by-side, taking advantage of the much higher resolution of an HDTV.
Apple's plans for future revisions to Apple TV (and a rumored Apple-branded HDTV) may well include the ability to download and run iOS apps natively using iCloud (since the Apple TV has no built-in storage) or an enhanced AirPlay technology. The developers hope their actions will spur Apple into creating a market for "native" Apple TV apps, but plans for something like what they are doing may already be in development.
There are still some obstacles in the hackers' home-made launcher, including an inability to re-orient portrait-based applications or trigger auto-rotation. Still, Troughton-Smith has demonstrated a number of apps working on the Apple TV, including the iPad version of Facebook, Safari, YouTube, Angry Birds, Lights Out and other iOS apps. A video of the homebrew launcher and springboard replacement can be seen below.