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Apple TV headed for major overhaul?

The New York Times reports that Apple is working on a “major overhaul” of its Apple TV product for accessing iTunes media in the living room. The report cites “several people familiar with Apple’s television-related efforts” indicating that the company is working on a significant software update for the Apple TV which will “offer a completely redesigned interface” for the device. The sources note that it is not clear right now whether Apple is planning to create an entirely new product, but also mentioned that the new software design may be based on Apple’s iOS operating system. There are additional reports that Apple has recently hired several user interface and graphic designers with a background in broadcast design for television and that some of the more advanced work on the next version of the device is not taking place within the Apple TV group but rather within an entirely different design group within the company. Those familiar with the company’s plans noted that Apple executives are aware of the challenges in “the battle for the living room” and that the company must “get it right the next time.” [via Mac Rumors]

Next Apple TV to sell for $99, be iPhone OS-based?

The next Apple TV will be based on the iPhone’s operating system and will sell for $99, according to a new report. Citing an anonymous tip which was confirmed by a source “very close to Apple,” Engadget reports that the next Apple TV will share its architecture with the fourth-generation iPhone, including an A4 CPU and a limited amount of storage—16GB, according to the report—while offering full 1080p HD output. The report also claims that the device will be “quite small” and will feature only a power socket and video output for ports, having been described by some as “an iPhone without a screen.” The device is said to be focused on cloud-based storage, with an option to use a Time Capsule as on-site external storage, and while no definitive word was provided as to whether the device will utilize the App Store and its application library, Engadget speculates that such a move would make sense. Finally, the report claims that the new Apple TV won’t be unveiled at WWDC, but that development on the device is “full steam ahead.”

Fire Core releases aTV Flash 4.1, supports Apple TV 3.0.2

Fire Core has released version 4.1 of its aTV Flash software utility package for the Apple TV. aTV Flash allows users to install a number of different software packages—including the Couch Surfer Pro web browser, a RSS feed reader, and support for a much broader set of media formats—on their Apple TV units using a USB flash drive. New in version 4.1 is full 5.1 surround sound support for nearly all media types, including DVD (VIDEO_TS) files, faster web browsing and enhanced Remote app support for the Couch Surfer Pro browser, “much improved” media playback, and compatibility with Apple TV Software 3.0.2. aTV Flash 4.1 is available now for Mac or Windows, requires a 256MB or larger USB flash drive, and sells for $50 with a year of software updates included.

Audio posted of Apple COO Cook at Goldman Sachs Conference

Apple has posted an audio webcast of COO Tim Cook’s recent comments made at the Goldman Sachs Technology & Internet Conference 2010. During his talk, Cook made a number of interesting comments regarding the Apple TV, iPad, and iPhone. According to Cook, the reason Apple calls Apple TV a hobby is because it’s in a market that’s “very small today.” However, unit sales of the Apple TV grew 35% year-over-year in the December quarter, and the company is “continuing to invest in it” because it believes “there’s something there.” However, Cook contrasted the Apple TV’s hobby status with the iMac, which he believed was a strong product with a bright future ahead; by contrast, the current model for the Apple TV was difficult, because it would seem to lead to an Apple-branded TV, adding that the company has “no interest in being in the TV market.”

Regarding the potential market for the iPad, Cook said he “wasn’t losing any sleep” over possible cannibalization of existing Apple products, and amplified prior hints regarding its value relative to netbooks, saying that he doesn’t think people will want to continue to use inexpensive but disappointing netbooks over time. Having used the iPad for six months, as he explained, the experience was significantly better. As for distribution, Cook said the company will initially sell the iPad in its direct channels, including in Apple Stores, online, and through its education sales force, and in indirect channels where the company has “assisted sales,” including Apple’s “stores in stores” at Best Buy locations and Apple Premium Resellers, all places where the company “has sales people that can answer questions.” He suggested that the iPad could later come to locations without sales assistance, implying that customers will need to be helped through initial experiences with the unfamiliar device. He also described AT&T’s iPad data pricing as “revolutionary,” noting that he wouldn’t want to suggest what competing carriers might have to do to sell the iPad along with AT&T, and later said that he thinks there is a place for both iPhone OS and Mac OS operating systems.

Apple releases Apple TV Software Update 3.0.2 (Updated)

Apple has released Apple TV Software 3.0.1, the latest software update for its set-top box. While the software is available through the “Update Software” feature in the Apple TV’s General Settings menu, Apple’s official Apple TV software update support document has yet to be updated with any information on what, if any, new features or improvements might be included in software 3.0.2. Apple last updated the Apple TV’s software last Novemeber with version 3.0.1, which Apple urged users to install immediately due its containing a fix for a bug that caused content to temporarily disappear until it was resynced.

Updated: iLounge’s editors have tested the latest update and changes appear to be confined mostly to bug fixes and stability improvements. The 3.0.2 update most notably appears to fix some serious HDMI-related issues that appeared in 3.0.1, in which synchronization would occasionally be lost, requiring a reboot of the Apple TV unit. Although some users have speculated that this update may include new features related to Aperture 3.0, we have seen no evidence of this, as the Apple TV continues to work with Aperture 3.0 in much the same way as previous versions of Aperture; no support for Faces or Places, for instance, is offered by the Apple TV after it is updated. However, full compatibility with Aperture 3.0 would likely also require a future iTunes update to implement.

Update x2: Apple has updated its Apple TV software update support document to include details of this latest release. According to the document, Apple TV Software 3.0.2 “includes fixes for Genius playlists, MobileMe gallery photos, iTunes U content, Internet Radio, and other media-related features. The update also includes performance and connectivity fixes for Apple TV.”

Apple rolling out updated iTunes LP/Extras files

Apple has begun sending out emails to customers who purchased iTunes LP or iTunes Extras content prior to the release of Apple TV Software 3.0, informing them that updated files are now available. As Apple revealed in a Support document last week, the new Apple TV software requires updated iTunes LP and iTunes Extras files to work properly. The emails states, “We have updated the iTunes LP that was included with [Album title and artist] so that it can now be viewed on Apple TV in addition to your Mac or PC.” The email includes a direct “Check for Available Downloads” link, as well as step-by-step instructions on how to do so manually. It also notes that the updated files will automatically replace currently existing versions, and that the new files must be synced with the Apple TV.

iTunes LP, Extras getting updates for Apple TV 3.0

According to a new Apple Support document, new versions of previously purchased iTunes LP and iTunes Extras content will be made available for download for use with Apple TV Software 3.0. The document states, “New versions of previously purchased iTunes Extras and iTunes LP content will be added to your download queue, and you will receive an email alerting you when they are available. The content will be delivered to your iTunes application on your computer, and you can then sync it to your Apple TV.” It is unclear what changes are being made to the files in the updated versions, but iLounge editors had noticed problems streaming iTunes LP and iTunes Extras files to the Apple TV; the support doc specifically mentions syncing these files to the Apple TV’s built-in hard drive.

Apple TV 3.0 Update Gallery posted online

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iLounge has posted an extensive gallery showing off the new interface of Apple TV Software 3.0 to our Flickr account. Included are shots of the new main interface, Genius, HD YouTube playback, Internet radio, iPhone/iPod touch Remote control, new fonts throughout the interface, and more.

Apple releases Apple TV Software 3.0 with new interface

Apple has announced the release of Apple TV Software 3.0, offering a number of enhancements, including a redesigned user interface. The new main menu interface spills across the screen horizontally, with menus for Movies, TV Shows, Music, Podcasts, and more. As revealed earlier, the software also provides support for Apple’s new iTunes LP and iTunes Extras formats, as well as up to 12 Genius Mixes, Internet radio playback, iPhoto Events and Faces, and more. Apple TV Software 3.0 is available now as a free download via the Update Software option in the device’s General Settings menu.

Apple TV Software 3.0 to support iTunes LP, Extras

Apple has updated its iTunes Store Terms, revealing an impending Apple TV 3.0 update that will bring support for the iTunes LP and iTunes Extra formats to Apple’s set-top box. In a brief summary of changes made to the terms, Apple writes, “The Terms of Sale have been revised to clarify that you can now use iTunes LPs and iTunes Extras on Apple TV with software version 3.0 or higher.” Apple last updated the Apple TV’s software in June with the release of software version 2.4, which added support for gesture controls in the company’s Remote application for the iPhone and iPod touch. It also made a change to the device’s lineup in mid-September, killing the 40GB model and dropping the 160GB unit to $229. It is unknown when software version 3.0 will be released.

Apple kills 40GB Apple TV, 160GB now $229

Apple has quietly removed the 40GB Apple TV from its online store, and dropped the price of the 160GB model to $229. The 40GB and 160GB models were previously priced at $229 and $329, respectively; recent reports had noted that the shipping time for the 40GB model was growing abnormally long, indicating a possible upcoming change. Interestingly, this pricing drop comes less than one week after Apple introduced its new iTunes LP enhanced album format, which an in-depth look reveals is formatted for 1280x720 displays, or to the exact dimensions of the 720p HD video format. Furthermore, a separate report found that the iTunes LP content files reference the HTML meta tags “hdtv-fullscreen” and “hdtv-cursor-off,” suggesting that the content was created with HDTV display in mind, and that the Apple TV may see an update that allows it to play iTunes LP content sometime in the near future.

Apple CFO: No DVR, cable box features for Apple TV

During a recent meeting with Caris & Company analysts, Apple Chief Financial Officer Peter Oppenheimer dispelled speculation that the company would soon add DVR or other cable box-like functionality to the Apple TV. AppleInsider reports that Oppenheimer said the idea of adding live TV recording or other cable integration features doesn’t fit into Apple’s business plan. Oppenheimer’s comments follow a separate report from The Loop stating that a rumored Apple TV refresh would not be part of tomorrow’s Rock and Roll media event; Apple released its last major Apple TV update in the form of software 2.0 in early 2008.

Apple sued a second time over Apple TV intro [updated]

Apple has been sued a second time by photographer Louis Psihoyos over what he claims is misappropriation of his image “1000 TVs” for the Apple TV’s wall-of-videos intro sequence. Psihoyos filed a similar claim against Apple in June of 2007 in Boulder, Colorado; this latest suit was filed in federal court in Manhattan, and is seeking actual damages and other remedies that are “reasonably believed” to exceed $2 million. Apple modified the Apple TV’s opening sequence somewhat with the release of software 2.0, possibly in response to Psihoyos’ claim, as it was less similar to the photographer’s work than the prior introduction movie.

Update: Following the publication of this article, iLounge learned that the suit was not referencing the Apple TV, but instead an early version of the i.TV application for the iPhone and iPod touch. The suit names both Apple and i.TV, asserting that “[w]ithout permission or authorization from the plaintiff, defendants Apple and i.TV have impermissibly used, reproduced, copied, infringed, disseminated or otherwise exploited the plaintiff’s copyrighted image in the i.TV application.” The image no longer appears in the application, and it is unclear how long the application was available with the infringing image.

Apple releases Apple TV Software 2.4, adds Remote gestures

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Apple has released Apple TV Software 2.4, the latest update to its HDTV-tethered media player. Notably, the new software adds expanded support for the company’s Remote application for the iPhone and iPod touch, allowing users to control the set-top box’s menus, video, and audio playback using touch-based gestures. Apple has yet to update its Apple TV software release notes page to explain what else, if anything, has changed; iLounge editors are in the process of downloading and installing the update and will update this article if any other changes are found, or when Apple updates its release notes. Apple TV Software 2.4 is available now via the Update Software selection in the General Settings menu. [via MacRumors]

Hacked Apple TVs are 25% of Boxee use; Macs 67%

Boxee, a freeware media browser that allows users to watch web video, streaming TV shows, and any other non-DRM content shared on their network through a user-friendly interface, now derives 25% of its total traffic from Apple TV devices that have been hacked to run the Boxee software. According to new statistics published by Fortune, Apple’s products account for 92% of all Boxee use when the Apple TV users are combined with the 67% of users who run the software on Macs. Boxee founder Avner Ronen explains that the software became publicly available on Mac-based systems first because members of the development team “were all switching to Macs as our personal computers, [a]nd we felt many of the early adopters were going there as well.” While 370,000 people have downloaded the software since it became available last June, only 4% of those are running the software on Windows PCs, mostly due to the current alpha build, private-release status of the PC software. Installation of Boxee on an Apple TV requires a download from Boxee, as well as some unauthorized hacking of the Apple TV system software that results in Boxee appearing first as a menu item, then as a separate application with its own interface.

MacService offers 320GB Apple TV upgrades

Apple repair and upgrade shop MacService has announced its new 320GB Apple TV Upgrade service. According to the company, the larger capacity drive can hold up to 400 hrs of video, 72,000 songs or 200,000 pictures. To have their Apple TV upgraded, users must send their device out in a MacService-provided custom shipping container using a pre-paid UPS shipping label. Once received, MacService installs the new 320GB hard drive and transfers the data from the old drive, which is then returned to the customer along with the newly upgraded Apple TV. The 320GB drives are brand new and come with a 3 year warranty, and MacService promises to complete all work within 24 hours of the Apple TV’s arrival. MacService’s 320GB Apple TV Upgrade service is available now and costs $295.

Apple releases Apple TV Software 2.3.1

Apple has released Apple TV Software 2.3.1, the latest update to its HDTV-tethered media player. As a follow-up to version 2.3, the minor update breaks any unauthorized third-party software, such as the media center app Boxee, but no other changes are readily apparent. Reader reports indicate a couple of small bug fixes, however, Apple has yet to update its Apple TV software release notes page to explain what, if anything, has changed. Apple TV Software 2.3.1 is available now via the Update Software selection in the General Settings menu.

Update: Apple has since updated the release notes entry to include Software Update 2.3.1. The Network Test, which sends information about your Internet connection to Apple in order to help improve download performance, is the only new feature listed.

Apple TV online survey questions movie rental, purchasing habits

Apple is conducting an online survey of Apple TV owners to learn more about their movie rental and purchasing habits, as well as their use of the device and other living room electronics, such as DVRs, Blu-ray players, and video gaming consoles. According to MacDailyNews, the survey includes questions such as “If you could change one thing about your Apple TV, what would that be?” and “Which of these devices, if any, do you have in your household?”, with options including DVD and Blu-ray players, all current and last-generation video game consoles, and both cable provider and TiVo DVRs. Other questions include “How do you rent movies?”, with options for online services like Amazon Unbox, Apple TV, Netflix streaming, Vudu, and Xbox 360 live, as well as more traditional options such as brick-and-mortar Blockbuster and local video stores, cable/satellite provide VoD, and Netflix rental by mail, “Where do you buy movies?”, with options for Wal-Mart, Target, Amazon, iTunes, and other physical or online stores, and demographic questions relating to the sex of the respondent, household information, employment and occupation, and income.

Lawsuit claims Apple TV infringes patents

EZ4Media, maker of wireless entertainment devices, has filed suit in Illinois Northern District Court against Apple claiming that the company’s Apple TV, AirPort Express, and Macintosh computers infringe on four of the company’s patents. Three of the patents in question relate to streaming digital media from a server to a device, while the fourth covers a method for transferring media content from the Internet to a computer which then wirelessly transmits the data to a TV for playback. Interestingly, each of the patents was obtained by EZ4Media from Universal Electronics earlier this year, and according to the complaint, Apple hired away three key members of Universal’s staff to work in its consumer entertainment during the development of the Apple TV. EZ4Media is seeking a permanent injunction prohibiting Apple from further acts of infringement, as well as “damages adequate to compensate it for the infringement that has occurred.”

Apple releases Apple TV Software 2.3

Apple has released Apple TV Software 2.3, the latest update to its set-top box. According to the release notes, the update adds the ability to stream music from the Apple TV to Airport Express speakers or other Apple TV units on the same network, to learn other remote controls’ commands and use them in addition to the Apple Remote, and to see playlists in iTunes that contain movies, TV shows, podcasts, and music videos. It also adds support for volume control in music. Apple TV Software 2.3 is available now via the Update Software selection in the General Settings menu.

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