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Apple patents point to Apple TV DVR capabilities

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Several new Apple patent applications recently published online suggest that the company may be working on adding DVR features to the Apple TV in a current or future model. The filings and associated images, originally submitted in October 2006, describe a system of menus, some contextual to video being shown on-screen, for the navigation and selection of TV shows for both live viewing and future recording. One section in particular describes a method for loading programming data — up to one month’s worth — onto a portable device, such as an iPod, for mobile selection of future recordings. These selections would then be synched back to the recorder when the device is returned to the vicinity of the recorder, or placed in an attached docking station. Several of the illustrations show a Mac OS Dock-like menu system for navigation while a program is on the screen, while others show an expanded vertical menu on one side, while the program (or preview) is displayed in an angled video area, not unlike some current Apple TV menus, and also similar to the multiple video chat implementation from the company’s iChat application. While these patents are in no means an indication that Apple intends to release a device with DVR capabilities in the near future, they do show that the company has done extensive research and design in the area. Continue reading for more images of the interface. [via AppleInsider]

Apple TV 2.0 update now available [updated x3]

Apple has released the much-anticipated 2.0 update of the Apple TV software. The update brings a redesigned interface to the set-top box, as well as support for SD and HD movie rentals, iTunes Store browsing and purchasing directly from the device, AirTunes capabilities, flickr photo browsing, and more. For a more complete look at the changes, read our feature article. The Apple TV 2.0 update is available now through the “Update Software” menu selection in the Apple TV’s Setting menu.

Updated: The Apple TV 2.0 update currently offers 75 high-definition movie rentals, a new introductory movie,

and unlike the version demonstrated at Macworld Expo in January does not appear to include a 1080p resolution setting

. Apple’s updating process requires at least six restarts of the Apple TV, three of which include progress bars showing that the update is currently underway, and concludes with the playback of a new movie that replaces the “wall of videos” Apple TV 1.0/1.1 introduction with a slightly different version.

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Update 2: iLounge editors have been playing with the Apple TV 2.0 update and found that the 1080p resolution option is there, but may not appear on your first attempt to find it. When you look under Settings > Video > TV Resolution using a 1080p-ready television set, you may be presented with 6 or 7 options—720p HD, 1080i HD, 480p, 720p HD - 50 Hz, 1080i HD - 50 Hz, and 576p - 50Hz should be there, with 1080p HD appearing under 720p HD. One of our editors had the 1080p option appear immediately; the other had to turn his TV on and off to make the HDMI connection re-handshake before it appeared. Both editors noticed that the user interface was not crisper with 1080p turned on; rather, it looked fuzzier, as if it was being upscaled from lower-resolution artwork, rather than Apple TV downscaling its fonts and images from 1080p-ready source materials.

Update 3: We’ve added a few 720p/1080p pictures to this article; click on the headline, or below, to see them.

Apple TV 2.0 guided tour now available

Apple has posted a guided video tour of Apple TV software version 2.0, which walks viewers through most of the major new features and interface changes of the software. Announced during Apple CEO Steve Jobs’ keynote address, and explained further in a feature article, version 2.0 of the Apple TV software — also called Apple TV Take 2 — will allow users to browse, purchase, and rent content from the iTunes Store, perhaps most notably enabling the rental of high-definition films directly from the set-top box. The software was originally expected to be released this week; however, it was declared “not quite finished” by Apple, and is now expected to be available in the next two weeks. The update will be a free software upgrade for current Apple TV owners.

Apple TV 2.0 update delayed

Apple has announced that its anticipated Apple TV 2.0 software update, expected to be released this week, will be delayed. In a press release, the company said that the “Apple TV software update, which allows users to rent high definition movies directly from their widescreen TVs, is not quite finished. Apple now plans to make the free software download available to existing Apple TV customers in another week or two.” Announced during Apple CEO Steve Jobs’ keynote address on Jan. 15, the update will bring a revised interface to the set-top box, as well as the ability to browse and purchase content from the iTunes Store directly from the Apple TV, and the ability to rent both DVD- and HD-quality movies.

Apple reveals major Apple TV update, price drop

Apple today announced a major update to the Apple TV, which it has dubbed “Take 2,” and also announced that it will be lowering the price of the Apple TV from $299 to $229. The new update adds support for direct purchasing and renting of media from the iTunes Store — eliminating the need for a computer — and also features a new interface, which Apple CEO Steve Jobs said is “centered around the movie rental interface.” The update will also add support for the viewing photos from Flickr or .Mac, and for automatic syncing of content purchased on the Apple TV back to iTunes on a computer. “With the new Apple TV and iTunes Movie Rentals, movie lovers can rent DVD-quality or stunning HD movies from their couch with just a click of a button,” said Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO. “No more driving to the video store or waiting for DVDs to arrive in the mail.” The update will be available in two weeks, and will be free to all current Apple TV owners.

Report: Apple prepping major Apple TV update

According to a new report, Apple is preparing a major upgrade to its Apple TV set-top box, possibly to be announced next week during Apple CEO Steve Jobs’ keynote address. In an article discussing Apple’s future music plans, BusinessWeek reports that Apple is “nearing deals with Warner Bros. and Paramount, and has already secured deals with Disney and 20th Century Fox,” to offer the studios’ films for rental, and for sale, through iTunes, and that it is also “planning a major upgrade of the slow-selling Apple TV set-top box.” While the report suggests that Apple could add a tuner to a new version of Apple TV later in the year, Apple’s decision to use subscription-based accounting for the current Apple TV hardware suggests that any near-term upgrade would most likely come in the form of a software update, while the release of competing products with lower prices and greater hard disk storage capacity suggest that price cuts or capacity bumps could also be in the works.

Apple TV named in ‘Worst Gadgets of 2007’ list

Popular Mechanics has released its “Top 10 Worst Gadgets of 2007” list, with the Apple TV placing second. “There is nothing wrong with Apple TV. Unfortunately, there’s nothing overwhelmingly right about it, either,” says the article. “The problem with Apple TV isn’t the interface or the hardware, which are up to Apple’s current high standards. The issue is competition. DVRs and Video On Demand have fought their way into American living rooms. The only way Apple could have trumped them was to offer a huge selection of movies and monthly, all-you-can-eat plans. They did neither, becoming an online version of your nearest FYE, with decent (but not surprising) prices, and a spotty selection of new releases and mysterious B movies.” Other notable releases making the list were the Microsoft Zune, Palm’s unreleased Folio, and the much-hyped Ugobe Pleo.

Indie filmmaker uses Apple TV to screen film

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Independent filmmaker Scott Dacko recently used an Apple TV to power the New York premiere of his film The Insurgents. “As far as I know, we’re the first people to have ever done this,” Dacko said. “And it looked great.” The theater hosting the premiere, Cobble Hill Cinemas in Brooklyn, didn’t have a tape deck to play his film from — instead, The Register explains, it traditionally screens movies from film. Faced with the possibility of paying up to $1000 for a week’s rental of a tape-based setup, Dacko instead used Apple’s Final Cut Pro to output his film in the iTunes-friendly H.264 video format, and purchased an Apple TV for $299 to power a projector the theater had on hand. “That’s less than half what I’d pay someone just to put my movie on an HDCam tape,” he said. Dacko plans to continue using the device to screen his films, simply toting it from venue to venue. “I wish I had thought of this before,” Dacko said. “I could just create multiple versions of my movie on Apple TV - in every possible aspect ratio and format. All the theater would have to do is plug it in.”

Movie studios fear Apple TV

Despite rumors of an upcoming iTunes-based movie rental service, many movie studio executives are worried that the Apple TV could give Apple the same advantage in negotiations with their industry as the iPod does in the music industry. Concerns over this issue are part of what has kept most of the major studios from signing deals to sell their films on the iTunes Store, as is the fear of Apple’s pricing on new releases causing bigger retailers such as Wal-Mart to retaliate by slashing prices on new DVDs. “As a long-term business matter, Apple has to get all the studios feeling good about the product and what they’re doing with iTunes,” said Gartner Inc. analyst Mike McGuire. Currently, only The Walt Disney Company offers new releases for sale on the store.

Apple seeing slim profit on Apple TV

The Apple TV costs the company $237 to produce, BusinessWeek reports. Research firm iSuppli took the set-top box apart, and estimated the cost of components such as the Intel Pentium M variant ($40), accompanying Intel chipset ($28), 40GB hard drive ($37), and GeForce Go graphics chip ($15). The total of all the components ($237) leaves Apple a gross profit of $62, or around 20%, before marketing costs — a rarity for the company, which is known for its large gross margins.

“This is certainly a departure for Apple, or at least it’s approaching a departure,” says Andrew Rassweiler, analyst with iSuppli. “We made some very aggressive assumptions with this device, and by that I mean we assumed low prices on the components.” According to iSuppli, the 160GB model now being offered for $399, a $100 premium over the 40GB version, boosts the profit margin to more than 30%, due to the comparatively small $36 difference between Apple’s cost on the drives.

160GB Apple TV arrives, with pictures (updated)

Initial shipments of Apple’s new 160GB Apple TV ($399) began to arrive this morning, so we’ve cracked a box open to look for differences between this new model and its 40GB predecessor. There aren’t many to report.

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As noted on Apple’s web site, the new Apple TV ships with a model number of MB189LL/A, versus its predecessor’s MA711LL/A, and as before, there is a difference between its formatted capacity and its stated capacity. Previously, the 40GB Apple TV had 32.84GB of storage space, owing to space required by the device’s operating system and undeletable media files. The 160GB Apple TV has a formatted capacity of 144.75GB—actually 4.4 times that of the 40GB model, which means that Apple’s stated “36,000 song” statement of the device’s storage is, as the company has subsequently confirmed, conservative. Using Apple’s standard benchmarks, this Apple TV would fall just shy of storing 40,000 songs and nothing else, a moot point only in that few people have 10,000 songs in their libraries, let alone more.

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Cosmetically and in packaging, the 160GB unit appears to be otherwise identical to the 40GB model. It still includes software version 1.0, and there aren’t any obvious changes to its menus, body, or features save for the capacity bump. Neither its box nor the device inside includes a large 160GB badge of any sort, which is somewhat surprising as we’ve been told to expect the new Apple TV to appear in retail stores in the near future, and conspicuous capacity differences are typically signaled on iPod boxes. Here, like on a Mac computer box, the only obvious differences are in the model number sticker on the side, which doesn’t state capacity, and on another small sticker where the 160GB spec is buried alongside other product details. It is entirely possible that Apple’s release of the 160GB Apple TV was rushed, and that updated packaging will follow for use in retail locations.

Updated: The 160GB Apple TVs have begun to appear in Apple’s retail stores today, bearing the same small and non-descript capacity indication shown above. iLounge editor Jesse Hollington reports that the most conspicuous signs of the 160GB unit’s presence are the higher $399 prices on Apple’s box stickers and shelves, so if you’re looking to pick up the newer version, the price tag and small black sticker above will help you confirm you have the 160GB model.

Deutsche Bank: Apple TV will affect DVD market

Deutsche Bank has said it believes the Apple TV will take a chunk out of the $26 billlion DVD player market in the next few years. In a note to clients, the film claimed Apple is “positioned to introduce a compelling integrated home media infrastructure solution,” with YouTube content serving as a catalyst for further sales and market expansion. “We expect Apple to continue adding video content (TV, movies, etc) to iTunes/Apple TV further increasing its appeal,” the firm added. Deutsche Bank rates the company’s stock a “buy,” with a target price of $140.

Apple sneaks Convert to Apple TV into iTunes

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Following a trend started with its surreptitious introduction of an “Export to Apple TV” feature to QuickTime, Apple has quietly added a similar feature to iTunes 7.2: “Convert Selection for Apple TV.”

Like iTunes’ previous Convert Selection for iPod feature, Convert Selection for Apple TV offers one-click conversion of a video file into a resolution and video format compatible with one of Apple’s digital media devices. The difference is that the Apple TV converter produces high-resolution files with resolutions up to 1280x720 (720P), creating videos that will not play on current iPods, but look comparatively spectacular on HDTVs.

After Converting for Apple TV, you can then re-convert the file into iPod format later if you prefer. As with the QuickTime conversion tools, each process takes some time, but is guaranteed to yield a compatible file.

Apple exec details 160GB Apple TV, YouTube H.264 deal

Following today’s two Apple TV announcements, iLounge talked with Apple Vice President of Worldwide Mac Hardware Marketing David Moody, who provided details regarding both the YouTube application for Apple TV, and the new 160GB version of the media player.

YouTube: According to Moody, the YouTube update will take place in stages, beginning with the free software update for Apple TV owners in mid-June. At launch, “thousands of videos designed for Apple TV” will be available, with additional thousands added weekly until the entire YouTube library becomes accessible to Apple TV users this fall. When asked what “designed for Apple TV” meant, Moody said that YouTube will soon be encoding videos in the H.264 streaming-efficient compression format preferred by Apple TV, and that all new videos submitted to YouTube as of the mid-June launch of the AppleTV update will be playable by the device. From then until fall, YouTube will be encoding its entire back-catalog in H.264 format, adding videos in chunks until everything is accessible to Apple TV users. Direct links and the on-screen keyboard-based search engine mentioned in our previous update will bring you to current and old videos alike.

160GB Apple TV: Though it will be available tomorrow only as a build-to-order option from the online Apple Store, Moody said that the 160GB Apple TV will soon be available in retail Apple Store locations as well; no specific date was provided. Pricing through both online and retail stores will be $399, as noted in the Apple press release.

When asked about Steve Jobs’ reference to Apple TV as a “hobby” for the company rather than a full-fledged business, Moody noted that “we view this a lot like we do the early days of the iPod,” where the company is identifying the device’s strengths and adding features people will enjoy. Two of those strengths are that it’s “connected to the Internet” and is an “extendable software platform,” with the ability to expand to include features such as the YouTube plug-in. Faced with the question of whether Apple will soon be catering to users’ requests that the device make better use of their high-definition TVs, Moody said only that there was nothing to announce at this time.

Apple announces 160GB Apple TV, YouTube deal

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Immediately after Apple CEO Steve Jobs’ demonstration of an Apple TV running YouTube videos at the All Things Digital Conference in Carlsbad, California, Apple formally announced the partnership via press release, along with an updated 160GB hard disk-ready version of Apple TV for a price of $399. The 160GB version of Apple TV will store up to 200 hours of video, 36,000 songs, 25,000 photos, or a combination thereof, promising four times the capacity of the original Apple TV at a $100 premium.

According to Apple, the 160GB Apple TV will be available as a “build-to-order option” from the Apple Store tomorrow, while the YouTube feature for Apple TV will be available as a free software update in mid-June. YouTube will initially offer thousands of its top videos through Apple TV, with the full catalog becoming available “this fall.” Users will be able to log into their YouTube accounts through Apple TV to view and save their favorite videos.

Unofficial Apple TV plugin SDK released

Mac developer Alan Quartermain has released the BackRow Developers’ Kit, a software development kit for Apple TV plugins. The kit includes headers for the BackRow, iPhotoAccess, and QuartzComposer frameworks, a project template for Xcode — Apple’s development environment — and a BackRow test application. Currently, plugins created for the set-top box will only work with modified Apple TVs. The BackRow Developers’ Kit is available now as a free download.

Apple to add free iPhone, Apple TV features over time [updated]

During Apple’s second-quarter 2007 financial results conference call, Apple CFO Peter Oppenheimer disclosed that Apple has adopted a new accounting policy in order to provide ongoing software feature and application updates for both Apple TV and the iPhone.

“We believe the iPhone is a revolutionary device that is years ahead of the competition,” said Oppenheimer. “We plan to build on this incredible foundation by continuing to develop new software features as well as entirely new applications, and incorporate them into the iPhone. And since iPhone customers will likely be our best advocates for the product, we want to get them many of these new additional features and applications at no additional charge as they become available.” Consequently, the company will account for each iPhone’s revenue over a subscription-style 24-month period rather than all at the time of sale. A similar statement was made regarding future Apple TV features.

Updated: In response to an analyst’s inquiry as to why Apple TV would be placed on a subscription accounting model, given that no subscription is required for the device, Apple stated again that it was looking at a number of new features for Apple TV, but did not specify what they would be. The analyst questioned whether this was a prelude to a subscription package for Apple TV content, and was not directly answered.

Motionbox to offer personal video downloads for Apple TV

Motionbox, an online personal video sharing service, has announced plans to offer subscribers the ability to share HD-quality videos via the Apple TV, “making it even easier for families, friends, and groups to enjoy their personal video.” As part of a set of premium services being launched later this quarter, Motionbox will give subscribers the ability to download their personal videos to Apple TV, as well as iTunes and fifth-generation iPods, supporting all video formats including HD. Subscribers and their friends and family will be able to share HD-quality personal video in their homes with an Apple TV, according to Motionbox.

Sling Media working on Apple TV support

Sling Media, maker of the SlingBox, has confirmed that it is working on making the streaming device compatible with the Apple TV. This feature would allow the combination of the Apple TV and a SlingBox to stream any media in a user’s iTunes library across the internet, and more importantly to any phone supported by the SlingPlayer software — including Windows Mobile, Palm OS, and Symbian devices. “It is definitely something we will support,” said Brian Jaquet, a Sling Media spokesman.

Apple TV commercial airs [updated]

Apple late yesterday began airing the first television commercial for the Apple TV. The 30-second spot, which has already run on several networks, features a scene from the Jack Black movie “School of Rock” with a voice over saying, “It’s on your computer. It’s on your iPod. Now, it’s on your TV.” The Apple TV ad can be viewed below.

Update: As pointed out by “Burnsy” in the comments, the voice over is done by John Krasinski who plays Jim Halpert on NBC’s “The Office.”

Update 2: Apple has now posted high resolution versions of the commercial on its website.

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