Apple TV Needs Universal Search

Yesterday, Buzzfeed's John Paczkowski indicated that the forthcoming Apple TV would feature "universal search":

Sources familiar with Apple’s plans say that a cornerstone of the the company’s new set-top box is a universal search feature that will enable searches across multiple streaming video services as well as Apple’s iTunes Store. Instead of searching the catalogs of multiple video services one at a time for a particular movie, you’ll now be able to search all — or most of them — at once and then choose the service on which you’d like to watch it.

As usual, Apple won't be the first at this, but that's never stopped them from becoming the best. Still, the best current example of universal search is TiVo's OnePass, introduced back in January. Since its inception TiVo has had "Season Passes" where you tell it what show you want to record, how many episodes it should keep, whether or not to delete them and more.

TiVo's Season Passes have seen iterative improvements over the years and worked well at alleviating the need to think about what channel or time your favorite show would air. Season Passes did nothing, however, to address the fact that your favorite show might also be available to stream from your cable company, Amazon, Hulu, Netflix or HBO. Not until OnePass.

Now, TiVo's OnePass replaces their Season Pass and it's true couch-potato bliss. Just like TiVo originally made it so I didn't have to learn what channel or time a show was on, OnePass now extends that and keeps me from having to hunt through each different provider to see if they carry what I want to watch. I simply do a normal, TiVo search for any given show, and it allows me to browse episode lists, showing me where each individual episode is available. It doesn't matter if I'm streaming for free from Xfinity On Demand or paying a per-episode fee to Amazon, it all starts from the same show-centric view in TiVo's simple interface, and it's wonderful; much better than the current Apple TV experience of hunting through each app, one-by-one.

Any set-top aggregator box that doesn't provide universal search is doomed, Apple included. This is the best way I've seen television-viewing management handled – perhaps this is what Steve Jobs' "cracked code" was all about? – and I can only imagine that Apple will do this and perhaps enhance it even further. Let's hope we find out next week.