Developers Steven Troughton-Smith and TheMudKip has been able to add iOS application functionality to an Apple TV. The developers had to re-write the code for the iOS springboard to allow the apps to run on the Apple TV set top box.
The work looks to be in the early stages of development, but they have proven that the concept of running apps on the second generation Apple TV is possible.
One very important feature demonstrated in the video is that the tweak will allow apps to run side by side. This concept was also shown at WWDC 2011 on an iPad, but is much more useful on a device like an Apple TV. One can imagine having several news applications open to have a big view of what is going on in the world, or having different chat applications running simultaneously.
Using @TheMudkip’s MobileX window manager for iOS, and @chpwn’s MobileLaunchpad launcher to go with it, we now have multiple iOS apps running natively on AppleTV, without AirPlay.