In its fourth-quarter letter to shareholders and financial results release (PDF Link), Netflix has revealed that the Apple TV has surpassed the iPad in viewing hours, despite having sold far fewer units. Noting that the devices with the largest installed bases—including Windows and Mac laptops, the Sony PS3, Microsoft’s Xbox 360, and the Nintendo Wii—are the most popular devices for streaming Netflix, the release states that the “AppleTV has done very well for us, and in just four months has passed the also-growing iPad in Netflix viewing hours.” Apple sold its one-millionth Apple TV the week of December 25th, while cumulative iPads sales as of the same date were 14.79 million.
New changes found in the Apple TV Software 4.3 beta suggest Apple is finally synchronizing the device’s Software and iOS Build numbers, while also tweaking the design of its on-screen keyboards. In the new beta, both the Apple TV Software and iOS Build Versions are listed as 4.3; previously, these two numbers were not the same, leading to confusion as to whether the update should be referred to by its Software or iOS Build version number. In addition, the beta of Software 4.3 features a new on-screen keyboard design, dividing the prior options into three six-by-seven grids—one for lower case letters and numbers, one for upper case letters and numbers, and one for symbols—and users can toggle between the new keyboards using the remote’s play/pause button. The new design should cut down on the number of button presses required to enter information on the device. Apple released the first beta version of Apple TV Software 4.3 to paid developers yesterday; it is unknown when the software and the companion iOS 4.3 update for iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch will be released.
Several of the latest iTunes Store movie releases from Sony Pictures are taking further advantage of iTunes Extras than past releases, according to a new report. PaidContent reports that the iTunes Extras releases of The Other Guys, Salt, and Resident Evil: Afterlife offer new interactive features such as the ability to search for a word, which results in a list of any time it’s mentioned in the script, along with a link to that exact moment in the film, a “clip & share” function that lets users select a scene and post it to social networks, and a playlist with songs from the film which is linked to places on the iTunes Store where the songs can be purchased. Despite the apparent progress of iTunes Extras as a platform for delivering interactive content, Apple has thus far failed to offer the feature on its newest devices, including the iPad and second-generation Apple TV, as iTunes Extras can currently be viewed exclusively from within iTunes on the Mac or PC or on the first-generation Apple TV. Notably, Apple CEO Steve Jobs has reportedly promised iTunes Extras support for the second-generation Apple TV, saying that the feature would be coming in a future update.
Apple has announced that it expects sales of the second-generation Apple TV to top one million units later this week. According to the release, iTunes users are now renting and purchasing over 400,000 TV episodes and over 150,000 movies per day. Notably, this is the first time Apple has made an official announcement regarding Apple TV sales, although Apple CEO Steve Jobs did say during the company’s most recent financial results conference call that the company has sold roughly 250,000 units since its release, meaning Apple has sold roughly 750,000 units since Jobs’ statement on October 18. Perhaps not coincidentally, Roku CEO Anthony Wood recently said that it expected to sell its one millionth set-top box by the end of this year, adding that the company’s sales actually doubled when the new Apple TV came out, thanks to the increased attention it brought to the product category.
Update: Apple has since confirmed that it did pass one million second-generation Apple TV units sold prior to Christmas.
A recent survey conducted on behalf of DirecTV suggests the company is exploring the possibility of allowing NFL Sunday Ticket subscribers to access programming from their Apple TVs. Alongside traditional and Red Zone Channel-only offerings, an image from the survey, published by Engadget, also touted a potential digital-only Sunday Ticket option, that would allow for viewing games on a tablet, such as the iPad, on a smartphone, such as an iPhone, or on a TV connected to an Internet-connected Blu-ray player, game machine, Apple TV, Boxee Box, or Roku player. The company currently offers separate Sunday Ticket apps for the iPhone + iPod touch and the iPad which allow subscribers to watch games over Wi-Fi or 3G; it is unclear, given the Apple TV’s current lack of apps, whether such an offering would be tied to new app capabilities for the device or if it would appear in the device’s menu system, a la Netflix.
Apple has released its latest Software Update for the second-generation Apple TV. According to the device’s About section, the new software is version 4.1.1, as opposed to the prior 4.1; the OS Build Version is listed as 4.2.1 (8c154), while the prior build was version OS Build Version 4.2.1 (8c150). Whatever changes have been made in the new software version are currently unknown, however, the point point (4.x.x) nature of the release suggests that only minor tweaks have been made under the hood.
Update: According to an Apple support document, the update addresses issues with playback of 480p content on high-definition TVs, and with unnecessary re-downloads of movies or TV shows.
A number of second-generation Apple TV users are reporting video discoloration issues. According to a lengthy Apple Discussions thread dating back to the beginning of October, the issues appear to be isolated to select models of Sony and Philips TVs, even those which worked fine for months or years when connected to a first-generation Apple TV. Many users suggest the problem lies within the HDMI “handshake” process, and may or may not be related to HDCP copy protection. Based on the most recent comments, the Apple TV 4.1 software update does not fix the problem, even though users have reported that Apple Support is aware of the issue. [via MacStories]
Apple has released a software update for the second-generation Apple TV bringing the device’s software up to version 4.1. Notably, the update includes support for AirPlay streaming from a device running iOS 4.2 or from a Mac or PC running iTunes 10 to the Apple TV. In addition, it adds support for VoiceOver spoken menus; the feature can be turned on via a setting in the Accessibility menu, and reads both the names of menu items and metadata, including episode descriptions of TV shows. Apple TV software 4.1 is available now via the Update Software menu item in the device’s General settings menu.
In a supposed email exchange with a customer, Apple CEO Steve Jobs has confirmed Apple TV streaming capabilities for the next Mac OS X version of Keynote. The customer’s email, reprinted by TUAW, asked whether the second-generation Apple TV would “accept Keynote presentations via [an] iOS device or a Mac,” and stated that he would “go buy two” if that were the case. In his typically terse fashion, Jobs reportedly replied, “It’s all coming soon. Stay tuned.” Rumors have indicated that an updated version of Keynote for Mac, along with Pages and Numbers, is either nearly finished or ready for release, although no specific release date has yet been announced.
Apple has announced that movies are now available on the iTunes Store in Japan. According to the release, over 1,000 films are now available to rent or buy in high definition and standard definition from a variety of international film studios including 20th Century Fox, Paramount, Disney, Warner Bros., Universal, and Japanese studios such as Asmik Ace Entertainment, Fuji TV, Kadakowa Pictures, Nikkatsu, Shochiku Company Limited and Toei Company Limited. Customers have up to 30 days to start watching their movie, and 48 hours to finish it once a movie has been started. iTunes HD movie purchases in Japan start at ¥2,000 for catalog titles and recent releases and ¥2,500 for new releases, while SD versions are priced at ¥1,000 for catalog titles, ¥1,500 for recent releases and ¥2,000 for new releases. iTunes HD Movie Rentals start at ¥300 for library title rentals and ¥500 for new releases, and SD versions start at ¥200 for library title rentals and ¥400 for new releases. In addition to the movie additions, the second-generation Apple TV is now available in Japan, and sells for ¥8,800, or roughly $107.
Beyond Japan, SetteB.IT reports that the iTunes Stores in Austria, Italy, Spain and Switzerland have been updated and are ready for movie sales and rentals, although no official announcement regarding those countries has yet been made.
Apple CEO Steve Jobs has reportedly confirmed upcoming support for the company’s iTunes Extras and iTunes LP formats on the second-generation Apple TV. In an email exchange with a customer reprinted by Mac Rumors, Jobs said that an update is “coming” for the next-generation set-top box that will provide support for both the iTunes Extras and iTunes TV formats. Apple originally added support for iTunes Extras and iTunes LP to the first-generation Apple TV in software version 3.0, but such support was noticeably absent from the second-generation model when it launched in September.
During Apple’s Third Quarter 2010 Financial Results Conference Call, Apple CFO Peter Oppenheimer, Apple COO Tim Cook, and, surprisingly, Apple CEO Steve Jobs made several noteworthy comments concerning the company’s digital media products, including the iPod, iPhone, and iPad. During his opening remarks, Oppenheimer noted that Apple passed 125 million iOS devices—including the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch—last month, with over 200,000 registered iOS developers, 65,000 game and entertainment apps, and over 30,000 apps made specifically for iPad. Oppenheimer also noted that iAd launched in July, and that the company is very happy with its results so far.
In regards to the iPod, Oppenheimer said it remains the worldwide MP3 player leader with over 70% market share, and is gaining share in most of tracked countries, while iTunes revenue for the quarter was over $1 billion. Turning to the iPhone, he pointed out that Apple sold over 40 million iPhones in fiscal year 2010, and that the iPhone accounted for more than $8.82 billion in revenue in the fourth-quarter, with an Average Selling Price (ASP) of around $610. iPhone sales grew in Asia, Europe, and Japan during the quarter, with sales more than doubling year-over-year in Japan. He added that the percentage of Fortune 500 companies piloting or deploying the iPhone jumped from 60% to 80% following the launch of the iPhone 4, and said Apple believes it could have sold even more iPhones if it could have kept up with demand.
According to market research firm iSuppli, the second-generation Apple TV may have a materials cost of less than $64. Citing iSuppli’s teardown of the device, Bloomberg BusinessWeek reports that the Apple TV’s Samsung-made A4 processor is its most expensive part at $16.55, followed by the Toshiba 8GB flash memory chip, which is estimated to cost $14. The Broadcom-sourced Wi-Fi and Bluetooth chip costs $7.65, according to iSuppli’s estimate, and a Texas Instruments $0.93 microcontroller chip also contributes to the overall cost. Overall, iSuppli found that the use of components similar to those found in the company’s other iOS devices helped to bring the materials cost down to a lower percentage of the retail price than was seen in the first-generation model. “As soon as we saw the first A4 chip in the iPad, it was pretty clear to us that Apple’s plan was to use it across several devices,” said Andrew Rassweiler, the iSuppli analyst who performed the teardown. “It makes sense to control costs across the supply chain.”
Speaking at the Royal Television Conference in London, Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes cautioned against potential deals with Apple and/or Amazon that could harm sales of TV shows to other networks. “How can you justify renting your first-run TV shows individually for 99 cents an episode and thereby jeopardize the sale of the same shows as a series to branded networks that pay hundreds of millions of dollars and make those shows available to loyal viewers for free?” Bewkes said. “These new entrants must meet a few criteria: They must provide consumers with a superior TV experience, and they must either support or improve the overall economics that funds and creates the programming in the first place.” NBC Universal CEO Jeff Zucker, who has a history of playing hardball with Apple, recently voiced similar concerns about Apple’s 99-cent TV rentals, saying, “We do not think 99 cents is the right price point for our content. ... We thought it would devalue our content.”
The second-generation Apple TV is capable of decoding and playing back 1080p video, according to a discussion thread on Mac Rumors’ forums. Users of the new set top box report that iTunes accepts 1080p content, which can then be streamed to the Apple TV 2G. While some 1080p material has caused the Apple TV to struggle—likely because of a higher bit rate than other 1080p files that did play without issue—it is encouraging that the second-generation Apple TV is able to decode 1080p at all, a process that’s considered the most resource-intensive part of playing a video. Unfortunately, 1080p video streamed to the Apple TV is downscaled to match the device’s 720p output cap before being sent to the connected TV, but this discovery bodes well for a potential future 1080p update to the device, and also keeps users with large libraries of 1080p content from needing to re-encode those videos, as long as they play back normally.
iLounge has learned that the Apple TV’s main menus may be limited in functionality—or disappear altogether—depending on the types of rental content available in that country. In Canada, for example, rental movies are available, so the “Movies” menu contains the full stable of options, while the “TV Shows” menu disappears completely, as iTunes TV Show rentals aren’t yet available in that country. In another example, setting Mexico as the “Country” results in the removal of the “TV Shows” menu and an empty “Movies” menu, save for the “In Theaters” trailer option, as neither Movie nor TV Show rentals are available. Any TV Shows, Movies, or other media that users have saved to iTunes and available on their networks can be accessed through the separate “Computers” main menu listing.
During our early testing of the second-generation Apple TV, iLounge has found several films available for rent that are currently in or awaiting theatrical release. I’m Still Here, the quasi-documentary starring Joaquin Phoenix which debuted in theaters on September 10, is available for rental for $8, while the sci-fi drama Monsters is available for rental for $11, ahead of its limited theatrical release on October 29. It is unclear whether Apple has plans to continue to offer theatrical release films for rent at higher prices, or whether these offerings are simply one-off titles and not indicative of a larger trend.
Update: It appears the films were available for rent through iTunes prior to the release of the second-generation Apple TV, and are not related to the set-top box’s launch.
iLounge has confirmed that the second-generation Apple TV is starting to arrive in Apple retail stores across the U.S. The first shipments of the device arrived at some stores as early as yesterday morning, and while it is expected that most stores should have the device in stock, we encourage readers to call ahead to ensure your local store has them on hand before heading out.
Update: iLounge editor Jesse David Hollington notes that second-generation Apple TV units began arriving in Canadian Apple Stores this afternoon.
iFixit has completed its teardown of the second-generation Apple TV, and has already revealed several previously unknown details of the device. Notably, the second-generation Apple TV sports 8GB of internal flash storage, equivalent to the $99 iPhone 3GS, and also features 256MB of RAM, the same as the fourth-generation iPod touch and the iPad. Its Apple A4 chip bears the same marking as the one found in the fourth-generation iPod touch and iPad, but different from the iPhone 4; the Broadcom BCM4329XKUBG 802.11n Wi-Fi/Bluetooth/FM chip is also the same as the one found in the iPad. Overall, iFixit gave the second-generation Apple TV an eight out of ten for repairability thanks to its easy-to-open case, separate power supply board, and common fasteners.
An iOS developer has managed to extract the second-generation Apple TV’s main interface and run it on an iPod touch. Named Lowtide.app, the interface was built with support for multiple devices, including the iPad, in its list of supported hardware, TUAW reports. Developer Dustin Howett took the application and managed to get it running on an iPod touch, although it required modification of the iPod touch’s software, to the point where it needed to be completely restored to regain its normal functionality. Notably, the application runs at full resolution and therefore does not display the entire Apple TV interface on the iPod touch, but instead only the furthest left portion. A video of the interface in action on the iPod touch is embedded below.