Apple basically ensures nobody will use the Apple TV 4 as a thin client by removing keyboard support

In September, I wrote an article about how I thought the new Apple TV would be the ideal thin client due to its performance capabilities and cost, speculating that Apple only needed to add mouse support to complete the picture. When my new Apple TV finally arrived, I quickly fired it up and searched the App Store for something that could get me connected.

In September, I wrote an article about how I thought the new Apple TV would be the ideal thin client due to its performance capabilities and cost, speculating that Apple only needed to add mouse support to complete the picture. When my new Apple TV finally arrived, I quickly fired it up and searched the App Store for something that could get me connected. I didn’t expect to see native client apps (which is good, because there are none), but I was surprised to learn that there are no web browsers available for use with HTML5 clients. I stressed about this for a bit, but wrote it off because of the infancy of the tvOS app store.

Putting that aside, I grabbed a bluetooth keyboard and set about trying to get that connected. We already knew that Apple wasn’t going to add mouse support, but since the remote has a trackpad, it might still be a useable solution. My keyboard wouldn’t pair, and some quick digging reported back that Apple had, in fact, removed bluetooth keyboard support from the Apple TV. Keep in mind, it was in the previous models, which likely means that this was an intentional decision.

Why would Apple do that? Sure, “Apple TV as a thin client” is not a use case that they designed it for, but entering passwords via the kludgy new on-screen keyboard is more maddening than it used to be, especially as Apple requires more complex passwords. (I’m not complaining about more complex passwords, we need at least that level of security, but they need to make it as easy as possible to enter them.) Perhaps Apple is afraid of cannibalizing sales of other, higher-margin devices by adding keyboard support. In many ways, an Apple TV with a keyboard and mouse could supplant more expensive iPads and Mac Minis for some users.

So the fantasy of an MDM-managed, highly-capable $150 thin client remains just that–a fantasy. The only options that remain, baring some intervention from Apple, are jailbreaking or circumventing the OS altogether. Jailbreaking isn’t an option for companies, though it is for home users. Circumventing the OS a la the Citrix X1 Mouse is a possibility, though I can’t imagine that Apple would stand for such a thing (remember, they actively removed keyboard support). It might also be possible, given the presence of a comprehensive bluetooth API intended for game controllers, for someone to create a 104 "button" gamepad that just happens to be keyboard shaped. Get on that, Logitech!

Of course, things could change. The problems with the Apple TV as a whole, not just limited to thin clients, are numerous. Without turning this into an Apple TV review, it seems like it was rushed out and is undeserving of the 9.x version of tvOS (which it has since it’s derived from iOS). That said, all the problems are software-based, which means that they can be fixed at any time. We may wake up one day to find that all the little issues are solved along with adding keyboard and mouse support. In the meantime, traditional thin client vendors can sit tight knowing that they don’t have competition from a new vector.  

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Fear not Gabe, $150 Chromebox with HDMI, WIFI, KB, Mouse and Citrix Receiver will take away the pain.  


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Yeah, that's a possibility. I also just ordered a Remix Android PC for $69 to see how it works out. I've had horrible experiences with Android in a desktop form factor, but those that I've talked to say they've managed to do what everyone else couldn't: Make a good desktop experience on Android. We'll find out soon enough.


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Hi Gabe,


Remember ThinLinX?


No need to spend US$150 or US$69 just buy a Raspberry Pi2 for US$35


We have just released TLXOS for the Raspberry Pi2, this delivers exceptional Citrix HDX performance for single Displays, we also have TLXOS releases for the Intel NUC, Intel Compute Sticks & RePC


See demo from Beta testers at the link below


www2.nau.edu/.../RPI-ThinLinX-2015Nov24.mp4


You can download a 30 Day free trial of TLXOS from here thinlinx.com/download.html


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I'm on it! Thanks for the heads up. I'm still partial to the idea of managing the thin clients with MDM since companies are already using that to manage other devices (ahem...opportunity?), but I'll check this out for sure.


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Great to hear Gabe :)


We are about to release a new version which you can download now from here


www.thinlinx.us/.../tlxos_rpi-4.0.6.exe


Some customers have found Storefront or the Web interface to be limiting, so we have just added a new option which we call 'unmanaged"


In the latest 4.0.6 version we have updated libjpegturbo and added the new “Unmanaged” option in HDX mode.  Selecting this checkbox makes HDX mode use /usr/local/bin/ica instead of starting selfservice (i.e. directly invokes wfica without going through any PNAgent/Storefront management UI).  This means you must provide a server name/IP or published application name (and also an appropriate -A option on the command line in the case of published app), or it will not work.  Will support autologon with TMS-provided credentials, and auto-reconnect if selected.  Does not support indirect connections of any kind (Citrix Secure Gateway etc).  Note that you will get different remote protocol help output if the “Unmanaged” box is selected, but this does not take effect until you save the option.


The new version of the ThinLinX Managment Software (TMS) is built into TLXOS, you can select “Unmanaged” using the local configuration menu or the built in version of TMS (Protocol tab, select HDX)


TMS allows you to manage any device running TLXOS from one central location, even when the devices are behind multiple Firewalls as the devices running TLXOS call home using a SSL link


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I know a handful of people using Raspberry Pi's as thin-clients... mostly for wired connections.


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I use a RPi2 and Intel NUCs / Compute sticks running TLXOS everyday as Thin Clients, please try our 30 Day Free trial and make up your own mind as to whether TLXOS is a viable alternative to the traditional thin client vendors and their solutions


I think you will be impressed :)


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See Citrix Blog here


www.citrix.com/.../citrix-raspberry-pi2-thinlinx-high-res-graphics-client-for-50


The free ThinLinX Management Software (TMS) which is available for Windows and is also built into TLXOS can be used to update Citrix Receiver using a "Hot Fix". Just select all the RPi's using TMS, then click on Tools / Install / Install Hotfix. All the RPi's will download and install the Hotfix using a SSL link. You can update hundreds of units simultaneously using this feature which can be located behind multiple Firewalls anywhere in the World


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