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.
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 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 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]
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.
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 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 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.
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 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.
Apple has released Apple TV Software 2.2, the latest update to the company’s set-top box. New in software 2.2 is the ability to create Genius and on-the-go playlists, and the ability to purchase and download HD TV shows directly from the Apple TV. As with iPods and as noted in our screenshots, the Apple TV must be synced with a Genius-enabled iTunes library before the feature will work from the Apple TV. The update also brings other modest UI changes. Continue reading for a small screenshot gallery of the new software. Apple TV Software 2.2 is available now through the update feature in the General settings menu.
Among the unannounced features of Apple TV Software 2.1 is the ability to save movies to a Wish List for purchase/rental at a later date. Each individual movie listing page now has a Wish List button to the right of the trailer, purchase, and rental buttons. Once a user has added a movie to his/her Wish List, a “Wish List” menu item appears between the “Rented Movies” and “Top Movies” section on the main Apple TV menu. Commenters have also noted that a thumbnail of the album artwork now appears when browsing music albums, and the duration of each track is shown once the album is selected. Finally, Apple TV Software 2.1 now supports dynamically updated Smart Playlists, which are now updated by the set top box without the need to sync with iTunes, as was required by previous versions of the software.
Apple has released Apple TV Software 2.1, the latest update to its set-top box’s software. Apple TV Software 2.1 includes support for Apple’s MobileMe service, as well as support for the company’s new Remote application for the iPhone and iPod touch. Apple TV Software 2.1 is available now via the Apple TV’s Update Software feature.
Updated: We have added screenshots of the software’s new Remote and MobileMe service features, the latter merely rebranding of the prior support for .Mac with MobileMe logos and names.
Apple is offering its AppleCare Protection Plan for the Apple TV. The $50 protection plan extends the set-top box’s one-year hardware warranty to two years, and also similarly extends telephone technical support. According to Apple, the plan also extends coverage to iTunes, an AirPort Express or AirPort Extreme Base Station, and Time Capsule. The AppleCare Protection Plan for Apple TV is available now to all Apple TV owners who purchased their unit within the last year.
Following this morning’s announcement that new movies from all the major studios will be made available for purchase on the iTunes Store on the same day as their DVD release, Apple has quietly updated the Apple TV’s movie browsing and renting system to allow for the purchase of movies directly from the device. In addition to the ability to purchase films, a “Top Sellers” category, showing the current most popular movie purchases, has been added to the top of the “Top Movies” menu. Apple has previously shown the ability to make live updates to the Apple TV’s iTunes Store sub-menus without the need for a full system update.
Speaking during an investor conference call, Jeff Bewkes, Time Warner’s CEO, said the company’s Warner Bros. studio will now release movies to the Apple TV and other video-on-demand systems on the same day they are released on DVD. The New York Times reports Warner Bros. has been testing the new approach in recent months, and found that DVD rentals only fell by 3-5 percent. Meanwhile sales of DVDs actually increased, possibly due to the increased promotion. Bewkes went on to say that the shift to digital distribution on “day and date” of DVD release will eliminate some manufacturing and distributing costs, and be beneficial to the company. “Taking a customer and moving that person over from rental-physical [to] VOD day-and-date is like a 60 to 70 percent margin instead of a 20 to 30,” Bewkes said. “So it’s about a three-to-one trade.”
Speaking separately in an interview, Warner Bros. home video president Kevin Tsujihara commented on the current restrictions of the DRM found on digital video rentals, such as the 24-hour viewing window. Tsujihara said the rules were built into complex contracts, but admitted that if Time Warner wants the higher margins from video-on-demand, it will need to ensure the rules for a digital rental are at least as lenient as a physical rental.
Apple TV users familiar with “All HD,” a sub-menu in the device that previously displayed a drab, grid-styled collection of all high-definition movies available for rent, will discover that Apple has just updated that interface with new features. The new “All HD” interface now parallels Apple TV’s “Top Movies,” “Top TV Shows,” “Top Music” and “Top Podcasts” menus, featuring a collection of five banners on the top of the screen, then Cover Flow-style scrolling lists of 25 “Top HD Rentals,” 29 “Just Added” titles, 29 “Must-See HD” titles, and 16 “Historical Dramas in HD” before displaying the old grid-style “All HD” list of high-definition titles. As with Apple TV’s “Top” sections, the Cover Flow scrolling lists can see their titles and contents updated dynamically by Apple, spotlighting different genres and titles.
Once again without any description or explanation, Apple has released version 2.0.2 of the Apple TV software, a minor update to the version 2.0 release from February, 2008. Following version 2.0.1’s release last month, users discovered a collection of small tweaks to the device including a new Genres sub-menu for stored movies, podcast-to-iTunes synchronization, and interface improvements, as well as a bug that impacted some users’ ability to connect to 5GHz wireless networks. It is unclear at this point what version 2.0.2 has added, and whether it has corrected or introduced any bugs. The new software is available as a free download from the device’s General settings menu under Update Software.
If the latest summary pages generated by the iTunes Store and Apple TV can be believed, Apple has reached its previously stated goal of offering 100 “high definition video[s] with 5.1 Dolby Digital surround sound” for rent, yet still lags considerably behind its promised 1,000 standard-definition rentals—numbers originally promised by the end of February, but missed by wide margins. A count this afternoon of titles listed in Apple TV’s “All HD” section showed that the company is currently offering 197 high-definition movie rentals through Apple TV, with 100 of those rentals including Dolby Digital sound, and the remaining 97 offering only stereo sound. Notably, one of the Dolby Digital rentals—American Gangster—is available in two versions, making the company technically just shy of the 100 mark, assuming that its All HD tally is comprehensive.
By comparison, the iTunes Store’s standard-definition rental number remains markedly below 1,000, though searches of the Store’s catalog yield different totals. While the store’s All Rentals section shows a total of 390 standard-definition movies currently available for rent, up only modestly from the 384 offered in early March, a Power Search of the store suggests that 604 movie rentals are currently available; the difference appears to be attributable to the “All Rentals” section excluding movies that are available for both rental and purchase. It is unclear whether Apple is still attempting to ramp up numerically to compete with Amazon’s Unbox and Netflix’s Instant Watching movie rental service, which already offer thousands of titles.
A number of Apple TV users are reporting wireless connection issues that appear to be related to 5GHz 802.11n networks following the installation of the 2.0.1 update. User reports indicate that after installing the 2.0.1 software, the Apple TV has trouble staying connected to some wireless networks, repeatedly dropping its connection after a short time. According to an Apple support discussion thread, the problem seems to be related to some 5GHz 802.11n networks; switching to a 2.4GHz network or simply turning off the “Use wide channels” option of Apple’s Airport Extreme Base Station appears to alleviate the problem.