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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.

Apple taps several chip makers for Apple TV

The Apple TV streaming media device is powered by a number of semiconductor chips from companies including Intel, Broadcom, Marvell Technology, and Nvidia. According to Prudential Equity analysts, who torn down an Apple TV to price its parts, “Intel is providing the central processing unit, Broadcom is supplying the Wi-Fi chipset, Nvidia is contributing the graphics processor and Marvell Tech is furnishing the hard-disk drive chip.” The Prudential analysts reported that the Apple TV also uses semiconductor components from Texas Instruments, Samsung, Cypress Semiconductor, and Intersil.

Apple TV demo stations now in stores

Over the weekend, Apple Stores completed installation of new demonstration areas for Apple TV, the company’s new media players for widescreen TVs. Heralded by window displays showing a silhouetted family with an Apple Remote controlling a live television set with Apple TV demo content, the demo areas include multiple television sets and Apple TV units preloaded with music, photo, podcast, TV show, and movie content. Visitors can test Apple TV for themselves with tethered remote controls, or watch the window demo cycle through. Low-end Sony Bravia television sets are used for the window and in-store displays, rather than the higher-end and more attractive XBR-series Bravia units that were used in prior public demonstrations.

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Absent such a demonstration area, the Stores’ promotion of the new device was more limited. One Apple Store we visited previously had two units inconspicuously placed on a low shelf near AirPort Express wireless routers, placement that persisted after the window and demonstration displays were set up. Small areas at the demonstration area and within shelves are devoted to XtremeMac’s XtremeHD cables for Apple TV, as well.

iResQ offers Apple TV hard drive upgrades

iResQ has begun offering Apple TV storage upgrades to replace the device’s stock 40GB hard drive. The company is currently offering three upgrade options—160GB ($299), 120GB ($259) and 80GB ($209). iResQ said the Apple TV upgrades will be performed within 24 hours of receipt, and that shipping materials and pre-paid labels are provided. “Upon Apple’s delivery of Apple TV’s last week, we immediately received requests for hard drive upgrades,” said iResQ. “After consideration and testing we can confidently perform these hard drive upgrades with ease. All units that arrive will receive our first-class attention, a brand-new hard drive installed by an Apple Certified Technician, and we’ll return it to our customers within 1 business day after we receive it.”

Two Apple TVs versus Mac mini photo gallery posted

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In addition to posting our own Apple TV unpacking photographs—showing the unboxing of two Apple TV units—we’ve included comparison photographs of the Apple TV and a Mac mini computer, so that readers can get a sense of the dimensional differences between the two units. Additional details, photos, and videos of Apple TV are available in our repeatedly updated First Look; a review is coming soon.

Best Buy scores Apple TV exclusive

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Best Buy has made an exclusive deal with Apple to sell the Apple TV device at its stores for two weeks before other retailers. Best Buy said the Apple TV will go on sale in its stores on Tuesday. Apple retail stores are obviously excluded from the two-week window, as most will be selling the device this week. Best Buy said it will have a limited initial supply of 3,000 units, which will be spread across its 822 stores.

Update: Best Buy is apparently backpedaling on its statements of exclusive availability.

Apple TV added to Apple support site

Apple has added an Apple TV section to its Service & Support website. Currently offered are tips and troubleshooting information, how-to articles, a discussion forum, as well as a quick start guide. A downloadable PDF of the Apple TV user manual is also available. In addition, Apple has added further pages and details on the Apple TV to the product’s main section, including extended technical specifications and a QuickTime tour.

Apple TV unboxing photo gallery posted

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First photographs of the Apple TV’s packaging and unboxing have been posted by our friends at Gizmodo. As noted in our First Look, the device comes without video or audio cables of any sort, so you’ll have to purchase them separately for $20-40, depending on the configuration of your home AV system.

Monster intros cable lineup for Apple TV

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Monster Cable has announced the availability of a new lineup of high-performance cables designed specifically for the Apple TV. The new products, which connect the Apple TV to televisions and A/V receivers, include: Monster iTV Component Video Cable ($40), Monster iTV Fiber Optic Cable ($30), Monster iTV HDMI Cable ($60), and Monster iTV Analog Audio Cable ($25). Among the features of the cable are 24k gold contacts, full-coverage shielding, and Duraflex protective jackets.

Apple TV now shipping

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Following a slight delay, customers who pre-ordered the Apple TV steaming media device began receiving shipment notifications earlier today. According to several readers and iLounge’s own shipping notice, most will receive their Apple TV by Friday. Originally announced under the iTV codename in September 2006, the Apple TV was officially introduced at Macworld Expo in January along with an expected shipping date of February. Apple later said it would delay the device until mid-March.

QuickTime gains 720P Apple TV high-definition export mode

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In an undisclosed and largely unnoticed update to its QuickTime video playback and conversion software, Apple has quietly added an “Export to Apple TV” feature capable of creating high-definition videos viewable on the Apple TV accessory. Unlike Export to iPod, which currently creates sub-DVD-quality 640 by 480 videos, Export to Apple TV creates not only full DVD-quality 720 by 404 videos, but also 1280 by 720 videos. These videos are viewable in iTunes, but cannot be transferred directly via iTunes to an fifth-generation iPod.

The 1280 by 720 pixel resolution, also known as 720P, is one of several high-definition video formats supported by current televisions. Using the H.264 video compression codec, Apple TV supports 720P playback at 24 frames per second - the frame rate used by movies, not TV shows - at substantially higher bit rates than prior iPod- and iTunes-created videos. A 2.5-minute 720P sample we converted with QuickTime yielded a 4214kbps, 76-Megabyte file from a 5708kbps, 102-Megabyte original, suggesting that feature-length, 90-minute HD movies formatted for Apple TV will require around 3 Gigabytes of hard disk space.

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Notably, Apple has not yet announced plans to sell HD movies through the iTunes Store, and has not gone out of its way to advertise Apple TV’s 720P video playback functionality. It has instead focused on the device’s ability to play iTunes Store and iTunes library content - typically formatted at 1/3 the device’s peak 720P resolution - as well as music and high-definition still photography.

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