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Apple seeds iOS 6 beta 4 to developers

Apple has released the fourth beta version of iOS 6 to developers. As with prior iOS 6 beta updates, beta 4 is available as an over-the-air software update or as a direct download from the iOS Dev Center, and is accompanied by a new beta version of the Apple TV software, as well as an updated version of Xcode and the iOS 6 SDK. The new version is listed as build 10A5376e; it is unclear what changes may be contained in the release. iOS 6 beta 4 is available now to registered iOS developers.

Apple adds Hulu Plus to Apple TV

Apple has added a new Hulu Plus app to the Apple TV. The app, which may require a restart before appearing, allows for access to the online streaming video service. As with Netflix, users can subscribe to Hulu Plus directly from the Apple TV using their iTunes account to pay the $7.99 monthly fee; a free one-week trial is currently being offered. Hulu is a joint venture of NBCUniversal, Fox, and Disney, and is also available on Apple’s mobile iOS devices via a free app.

Apple CEO Cook to meet with media executives

Apple CEO Tim Cook has been spotted this week at the Allen & Company Sun Valley Conference, a well-known executive meetup. According to The New York Times, Cook was spotted having coffee with Paul Sagan, CEO of Internet content delivery company Akamai. Cook has reportedly lined up a number of one-on-one meetings with media executives who are also attending the conference, perhaps working on partnerships for a larger move into the home entertainment market. When asked what he was most looking forward to at the conference, Cook replied “all the private discussions I’ve set up this week.” Apple has been rumored in recent months to be working on a TV initiative, possibly including the introduction of an Apple-branded HDTV.

Google intros Nexus 7, Nexus Q as iPad, Apple TV rivals

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Google today introduced its first self-branded tablet, the Nexus 7, as well as a new Apple TV-challenging device called the Nexus Q. Halfway between the Kindle Fire and the iPad, the Nexus 7 is positioned as a media tablet, featuring a 7-inch, 1280x800 IPS display, a 1.2 megapixel front-facing camera, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, a quad-core Tegra 3 processor, NFC support, a microphone, GPS, and the Android 4.1 operating system. It is available for pre-order now, priced at $199 for an 8GB model or $249 for a 16GB unit.

Shaped like an orb, the Nexus Q is akin to a beefed-up Apple TV: powered by dual ARM Cortex A9 CPUs and relying upon 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi or an Ethernet connection, Nexus Q boasts 16GB of flash storage, Bluetooth, NFC support, 32 perimeter LEDs for ambient lighting, Micro HDMI and optical audio outputs. Unusually, it also includes an integrated 25W amplifier with banana jack outputs for connecting directly to speakers, as well as a top-mounted dome volume control. However, Nexus Q’s current software does not appear to have been designed for standalone use, seemingly relying instead upon another Android device running Google Play or YouTube for control; like the Apple TV, a USB port is included solely for service and support. In addition, it allows multiple Android users to add media to the device’s playlist. It is similarly available for pre-order now, and is priced at $299.

Apple launches Apple TV in nine new countries

Alongside its rollout of the iTunes Store to 12 new Asian countries, Apple today launched the Apple TV in nine new markets. MacRumors reports that the Apple TV is now available from Apple’s online store in Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore, and Vietnam, and through third-party resellers in Brunei, Cambodia, Laos, Macau, and Sri Lanka. Pricing varies by country; the set-top box does not appear to be available in the Philippines, Taiwan, or Thailand, three countries that also saw local iTunes Stores launch today.

Beta Apple TV software allows for icon reordering

Apple’s latest beta version of the Apple TV software allows users to reorder the icons on the main menu page. Citing Portugese-language MacMagazine.com.br, MacRumors reports that the feature is accessed by holding down the center Select button on the Apple Remote for several seconds, which causes the currently-highlighted icon to wiggle, as seen on other iOS device when moving apps. While wiggling, the icon can be moved using the direction buttons on the remote, with the other icons automatically adjusting to the movement. This is the latest indication that Apple plans on allowing third-party apps on the Apple TV, a feature that has been heavily rumored since the launch of the most recent Apple TV OS in March.

Apple to announce TV SDK next week?

A new report claims that Apple will introduce a SDK for its TV products at its Worldwide Developers Conference. Citing an anonymous source, BGR briefly reports that the SDK will allow third-party developers to create software for “Apple’s TV products”; considering that the company has yet to introduce an HDTV set, it seems likely that the SDK will initially target the Apple TV set top box, and may allow apps tailored to that device to run on the rumored HDTV when it is released. Apple will kick off WWDC on Monday with a Keynote Address, which is scheduled to begin at 10:00 a.m. PT.

Apple releases Apple TV Software Update 5.0.2

Apple has released Apple TV Software Update 5.0.2, the latest update for its black set top box. Available for both the second- and third-generation Apple TV, it is currently unclear what changes the update might include, as Apple has yet to update its Apple TV Software Update page with information on the release; however, point updates such as this normally include only minor bug fixes and changes. Apple TV Software Update 5.0.2 is available now via the Software Update feature of the Apple TV’s Settings menu.

New Apple TV OS to appear at WWDC?

Apple will demonstrate a new version of the Apple TV operating system at its upcoming Worldwide Developers Conference, according to a new report. Citing a “trusted source,” BGR claims that the new OS is more “feature-complete” than the current OS that runs on the set-top box, and says that it’s the same version that will run on Apple’s as-yet-unannounced HDTV set. The report goes on to claim that Apple is actively courting manufacturers to use a new “control out” API that would allow third-party devices such as cable set-top boxes to make their accessories compatible with the new OS and allow Apple’s gear to control connected components. BGR’s source believes Apple is unlikely to actually debut the HDTV set at the event.

It is worth noting that BGR has a mixed track record when it comes to predicting future Apple announcements, and while the debut of an upcoming OS upgrade for the Apple TV would make sense from some points of view—allowing developers to start coding apps for both the Apple TV and the expected HDTV set, for instance—it would make for an extremely crowded keynote presentation, as Apple is already expected to discuss iOS 6, iCloud, and its upcoming Mountain Lion release, and might also use part of the event to discuss new MacBook hardware. In addition, it seems somewhat unlikely that Apple would replace the Apple TV’s OS so quickly after introducing a new version earlier this year, although the move wouldn’t be entirely without precedent, and might improve compatibility between living room devices before a new Apple television rollout.

Highlight video of Apple CEO Cook at D10 now available

AllThingsD has posted a video of some of the highlights from Apple CEO Tim Cook’s on-stage interview last evening. During the interview, Cook discussed several large topics, including Apple post-Steve Jobs, the company’s TV efforts, Siri and potential upcoming features for the virtual assistant, the company’s Chinese manufacturing partners and work conditions at those factories, the tablet market and iPad’s potential, and the company’s ongoing patent disputes with various companies. Notably, Cook dodged repeated questions related to a potential HDTV business, hinted at potential Facebook integration on iOS, and suggested that the company will unveil several new features for Siri at its WWDC conference, which begins on June 11. The video is roughly 17 minutes in length and can be seen by visiting the above link.

ESPN in talks with Apple to bring content to Apple TV

ESPN is in talks with Apple regarding the former’s WatchESPN app being included on the Apple TV. Bloomberg reports that a deal between the two companies is not imminent, but notes that a similar deal has already been worked out between the sports network and Microsoft, which offers WatchESPN access via the Xbox 360. “We’re a platform-agnostic content company,” said Sean Bratches, ESPN’s executive vice president of affiliate and advertising sales. “To the extent that in the future there’s an opportunity with Apple to authenticate through the pay-TV food chain as we’re doing with Microsoft, that’s something that we will participate in.” The network currently offers the WatchESPN app—which requires a subscription to the traditional cable channel through a participating operator—as a free Universal download for the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch.

Foxconn making preparations for Apple HDTV

Foxconn is making preparations for production of Apple’s long-rumored HDTV set, according to a new report. Speaking at a news conference in Shanghai, Foxconn chief Terry Gou said that the company is making preparations for iTV, the rumored name for Apple’s upcoming high-definition TV set. China Daily claims that the set reportedly features aluminum construction, Siri, and FaceTime video calling. Gou added that Foxconn’s recent 50-50 joint venture factory with Sharp is one of the preparations made for the device, although he said that neither development or manufacturing has yet to begin.

Apple releases Apple TV Software Update 5.0.1

Apple has released Apple TV Software Update 5.0.1, the latest update for its set-top box. Available for both the second- and third-generation Apple TV, 5.0.1 includes support for HD previews for movies and TV shows on the iTunes Store, a fix for an issue that caused some iOS apps to have trouble connecting via AirPlay, Home Sharing reliability improvements, fixes for an issue that affected Netflix login and navigation, and overall stability and performance issues. Apple TV Software Update 5.0.1 is available now via the Software Update feature of the Apple TV’s Settings menu.

Kanex ATV Pro solves Apple TV to VGA dilemma

Kanex has announced its new ATV Pro AirPlay Mirroring adapter for VGA projectors. The ATV Pro is a small, black, breakout box-style adapter that plugs into the Apple TV’s HDMI port and offers a female VGA port and a 3.5mm audio output jack on the other end, allowing users to connect the Apple TV to legacy VGA projectors. It supports resolutions of 480i up to 1080p with a refresh rate of 50/60Hz, and requires no extra software to function. Kanex’ ATV Pro AirPlay Mirroring adapter for VGA projectors is available now and sells for $59.

Third-gen Apple TV found to have dual-core A5

The A5 processor found inside the third-generation Apple TV is actually a dual-core processor, instead of a single-core chip as previously claimed. Chipworks has completed its examination of the A5 processor found in the new Apple TV, and was surprised to find that—contrary to Apple’s claims—the chip is actually a dual-core processor. The research firm suggests that Apple is either utilizing only one core, or is “parts binning”, a process by which chips that are not up to full specification are used for other purposes. In this case, A5 chips with a faulty core could have the “bad” core disabled and then used in the Apple TV.

In addition, the firm also found that the A5 variant in the third-generation Apple TV is build on a smaller process—32nm—than the prior A5, which was built on a 45nm process. While the report suggests that the new A5 variant could be used in a next-generation iPhone, or potentially as a cost-cutting measure—shrinking the process also cuts the cost per processor—for future iPhone 4S units, it also seems likely that the smaller chip could be included in a future iPod touch model. [via MacRumors]

Apple supplier Hon Hai takes large stake in Sharp

Apple manufacturing partner Hon Hai—better known as Foxconn—has bought in to Japanese firm Sharp. According to a Reuters report, Hon Hai took around a ten percent share of the company, and may use its new stake as extra leverage in attempting to win orders of Apple’s rumored TV set. “Hon Hai is already the assembler of Apple’s iPhone and iPad, it needs the next driver, which is Apple TV,” said Yuanta Securities analyst Vincent Chen. “It’s something that [Hon Hai founder] Terry Gou cannot afford not to do. But this is a very big gamble.” The report goes on to note that the newly formed relationship between Hon Hai and Sharp may give the latter a leg up in bids for Apple display orders, as Hon Hai/Sharp may be in a position to offer superior pricing. Sharp currently supplies Apple with Retina Displays for the third-generation iPad.

Former Apple engineer: Jobs rejected new Apple TV UI

Over the weekend, former Apple engineer Mike Margolis made a statement on Twitter that sparked some controversy over whether Apple was losing its way without its late co-founder Steve Jobs. When responding to a comment from a user who liked the old Apple TV UI—on which Margolis worked—he stated that the “new designs were tossed out 5 years ago because [Steve Jobs] didn’t like them. Now there is nobody to say ‘no’ to bad design.” While most of the discussion has focused on his first comment, subsequent comments explained that the new design is a logical next step “given their desire to match the iOS home page”, and that Jobs may have loved this new iOS-style grid. Margolis also added that the “new AppleTV UI excites me because it is just begging for apps - the old home screen UI was not app friendly/ready at all.” Finally, speaking with TechCrunch, Margolis explains that the original grid designs made little sense in a world where the iPad didn’t exist, people weren’t used to app-grid interfaces, and there was little third-party content for the device to tap into.

Third-gen Apple TV teardown finds Bluetooth 4.0 chip

iFixit has completed its teardown of the second-generation Apple TV, and while most of the findings were identical to those seen in an earlier report, one specific detail has stood out. According to iFixit, the third-generation Apple TV sports a Broadcom 4330 chip that supports dual-band 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz 802.11 a/b/g/n connectivity. Coincidentally, this is the same chip found in the third-generation iPad, and is also responsible for its Bluetooth 4.0+HS support. While it is unclear whether Apple will ever take advantage of this functionality, it is noteworthy that the third-generation Apple TV sports an extra antenna, the purpose of which is currently unknown.

Third-gen Apple TV teardown finds 8GB storage, 512MB RAM

A member of the XBMC forums tore apart his third-generation Apple TV over the weekend, revealing specifications of the device in the process. The teardown found that the third-generation Apple TV sports the same 8GB of flash storage—produced by Toshiba, in this case—as the second-generation model, but has seen its RAM boosted from 256 MB to 512MB, and, as announced by Apple, is powered by a single-core variant of the A5 processor. Also suggested by the teardown is a new dual antenna system for the set-top box; the poster did not seem to know what the second antenna was for, but did say that it was not found in the second-generation unit. [via MacRumors]

Third-generation Apple TV unboxing, comparison photos posted (Updated)

iLounge has received its first test unit of the third-generation Apple TV, and has posted the first unboxing photos of the unit to our Flickr account. As expected, the unit’s packaging has changed little from the last generation, save for the updated photo on the rear and the mention of 1080p playback capability on one side of the box. Little has changed inside the box, either, as new instructions seem to be the only change, and the unit itself is virtually indistinguishable from the prior model, save for a new model number on the bottom. Expect much more on Apple’s latest-generation set-top box soon.

Update: We’ve now posted a handful of screenshots—accessible from the above link—comparing the 1080p output of the third-generation Apple TV to the 720p output from the second-gen unit.

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