Apple has released an update for Apple TV: version 5.1 (10A406e) follows up on the March 2012 release of Apple TV software version 5.0.
Version 5.1 adds support for Shared Photo Streams, as well as streaming audio content from the Apple TV to AirPlay speakers and AirPort Express wireless routers. A list of new features from Apple’s web site follows after the break.
Apple won’t release a new TV product this year, reports Bloomberg. Seemingly confirming comments attributed to Apple executives by an analyst last month, Bloomberg’s sources note that Apple’s negotiations with cable companies have reached an impasse, with newly-reported conflicts over whether Apple could take sole control over the device’s screen interface software; Comcast reportedly has said no, while Time Warner Cable has been more open-minded. Apple and cable providers also disagree on the possible distribution method of a new Apple TV set-top box, as to whether it should be leased through the providers, or sold directly to customers.
According to The Telegraph, Apple plans on improving its AirPlay technology so that an iPhone, iPod or iPad can connect directly to speakers without use of a Wi-Fi network. AirPlay currently enables iOS devices to wirelessly perform audio, photos, video, and sometimes screen sharing through AirPlay-equipped accessories on the same Wi-Fi network. The report suggests the enhanced feature may solely be for music streaming, rather than for all forms of media, and has been developed under the working title “AirPlay Direct.” It also notes that the new feature could be announced alongside the next iPhone, though no specific products have apparently been signed off on yet. Further, it’s unclear as to whether AirPlay Direct will be compatible with older AirPlay accessories and Apple devices, or possibly require new hardware features such as dual-band Wi-Fi or Bluetooth 4/Smart.
Apple has quietly added a new content section to the Apple TV for the upcoming 2012 iTunes Festival in London. The Festival will feature 30 nights of free, live music from more than 60 artists performing at the Roundhouse in London. Apple has already released a universal iOS app for the iTunes Festival providing users with both live streaming of shows and later on-demand viewing, and users will also be able to stream content to iTunes or to the Apple TV via AirPlay from an iOS device or directly within the new iTunes Festival section. Previous shows are expected to be available for only a limited time, and it is unclear for how long the iTunes Festival content will remain available on the Apple TV following the conclusion of the event on September 30th.
During a meeting with analysts, Apple senior vice president of Internet services and software Eddy Cue indicated that the company won’t be entering the TV market in the near future. “Relative to the television market, Eddy Cue, Apple SVP of Internet Software and Services, reiterated the company’s mantra that it will enter markets where it feels it can create great customer experiences and address key problems. The key problems in the television market are the poor quality of the user interface and the forced bundling of pay TV content, in our view,” writes Pacfic Crest analyst Andy Hargreaves, as recounted by Fortune. “While Apple could almost certainly create a better user interface, Mr. Cue’s commentary suggested that this would be an incomplete solution from Apple’s perspective unless it could deliver content in a way that is different from the current multichannel pay TV model[...] Unfortunately for Apple and for consumers, acquiring rights for traditional broadcast and cable network content outside of the current bundled model is virtually impossible because the content is owned by a relatively small group of companies that have little interest in alternative models for their most valuable content.”
Apple’s vision for a set-top box device includes features designed to “simplify accessing and viewing programming and erase the distinction between live and on-demand content”, according to a new report. Citing people briefed on Apple’s plans, the Wall Street Journal reports that Apple is proposing a system through which viewers would be able to start any show at any time through a device that would store TV shows on the Internet. The report claims that the device will feature an interface that “could resemble the navigation icons” on the iPad, or in other words, very similar to the current Apple TV software. The interface may also offer on-screen space for social media features, and would also enable viewers to access content from the device on other Apple products.
The report goes on to detail some of the challenges facing Apple as it attempts to put such a service together, including apprehension on the part of the cable operators to let Apple gain a greater foothold in the TV market, and the fact that cable operators’ existing rights over TV content are likely insufficient to cover all of Apple’s proposed services, in particularly the Internet-based DVR service. It also states that Apple wants viewers to be able to access all episodes of current seasons of TV shows, instead of only a few episodes of a current season, as is currently the case on many cable operators.
Apple is in talks with some of the U.S.’ largest cable operators about letting an Apple device serve as a set-top box for live television and other content, according to a new report. Citing people familiar with the matter, the Wall Street Journal reports that no deal has yet been reached with any of the operators, possibly due to their reluctance to let Apple establish a larger presence in the TV business. Although the report does not state whether the device in question is an iteration of the current Apple TV or a more sophisticated device, it does cite two people briefed on the matter who claimed that the technology could be embedded in a television.
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 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 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 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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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 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 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 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.