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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.

Analyst: Apple enters digital living room with 10x lead

With this month’s release of the Apple TV, Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster says Apple is entering the digital living room market with a 10x lead over the next closet competitor, Microsoft’s Media Center, thanks to the large amount of iTunes users. The analyst estimates that there are approximately 110 million active iTunes users, compared to 12 million active Media Center users. Munster believes the digital living room market in 2008 will be worth $4.7 billion, and is currently expecting Apple to sell 2 million Apple TV units in 2007.

“We believe iTunes is a Trojan horse media center, which will give Apple a significant early lead in the digital living room,” says Munster. “While Apple does not disclose iTunes user base statistics, we estimate that there are at least 110m iTunes users, which represents the preliminary addressable market. To compare, the closest Windows-based product is Windows Media Center, which serves as a media hub for music, TV, and movies on PCs. While the comparison is not apples-to-apples, as Media Center is part of the Windows operating system, we estimate there to be 23m Media Center-enabled PCs. We estimate there are 12m actual Media Center users. (Note: about 40% of all PCs sold in retail stores come with Media Center pre-installed.) In other words, Apple has a 10x headstart in the digital living room.”

FCC, component shortage could be behind Apple TV delay

The Federal Communications Commission or a component shortage could be to blame for the delayed launch of the Apple TV set-top box. BusinessWeek reports that it is likely Apple has yet to receive approval for the device from the FCC. “The most recent Apple product to receive FCC approval was the latest version of the Airport wireless networking hub. It was approved on Jan. 9,” the magazine notes. “The Apple TV device doesn’t readily appear among the many products for which Apple has sought approval since the beginning of 2006, based on a search of the FCC Web site.” If the FCC is not to blame, BusinessWeek raises the possibility that it may be a component shortage that caused the Apple TV delay. “Component suppliers known to have pieces in the Apple TV include Intel, Marvell, and Seagate,” reports the magazine. “But a parts shortage probably would have been known long before Jobs set such an aggressive ship date for the product.”

Apple TV delayed until mid-March (updated)

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Despite recently claiming that it would meet its February shipping deadline, Apple said today that it will delay the release of the Apple TV until mid-March. “Wrapping up Apple TV is taking a few weeks longer than we projected, and we now expect to begin shipments mid-March,” said Apple spokeswoman Lynn Fox. Apple CEO Steve Jobs unveiled the Apple TV under the code name iTV in September of last year. Apple has been accepting pre-orders for the device since January’s Macworld Expo.

Update: Shipping dates for early Apple TV orders have been confirmed by Apple for March 20, with the fastest delivery option resulting in a March 23 arrival.

Apple TV still on track to ship this month

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Apple has denied a report claiming the release of its Apple TV streaming media device would be delayed until March. An Apple spokeswoman said it is “business as usual” for the launch of Apple TV. “We are still planning to release Apple TV in February as announced,” she said. The statement was in response to a Think Secret report, which said “the first shipments of Apple TV to the company’s retail stores have been pushed back to the beginning of March.” Apple CEO Steve Jobs unveiled the Apple TV under the code name iTV in September last year. Apple has been accepting pre-orders for the device since last month’s Macworld Expo.

Apple TV to play games?

The Apple TV could soon be used to play video games, according to an executive at PopCap Games. Greg Canessa, former general manager of Xbox Live Arcade and PopCap’s new vice president of video game platforms, said in an interview with Wired that his company plans to develop PopCap games for several devices, including the Apple TV. “I will help proliferate their titles on other consoles. It’s a broad in scope role,” Canessa said. “It will be about taking the stable of franchises and games out of PopCap’s studio and adapting, customizing it for different platforms—adding multiplayer, new play modes, HD, customizing the user interface and display for Zune, iPod, Apple TV, Nintendo DS, PSP.” PopCap already makes two iPod games—Bejeweled and Zuma.

XtremeMac intros cables, HDMI switcher for Apple TV

XtremeMac has introduced a line of home audio and video cables for the new Apple TV streaming media device. The XtremeHD product line also includes a four-port HDMI switcher designed to complement the Apple TV. The XtremeHD cables include: HDMI to HDMI ($20), HDMI to DVI ($20), Component Video ($20), Toslink Optical Audio ($20), and RCA stereo ($15). The XtremeHD four-port HDMI switcher, which will be available next month, enables users to connect up to four HDMI sources—such as Apple TV, DVD players, satellite systems and DVRs—and then connect to a single HDMI input on a television. Any one of the connected video sources can then be selected using the button on the front of the HDMI switcher or via the included remote control.

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Apple TV announced

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In addition to the iPhone, Apple CEO Steve Jobs also unveiled the retail version of the pre-announced iTV streaming media device. Now called the Apple TV, the living room gadget allows users to wirelessly play audio and video content from a Mac or PC on a television. Jobs said the device will begin shipping in February for $299.

Along with the features previously shown, including the interface and browsing, Jobs revealed that the Apple TV will have a 40GB hard drive (for up to 50 hours of video, 9,000 songs, 25,000 photos or a combination of each) and is capable of delivering high-definition 720p output. Jobs also said that using high-speed AirPort 802.11 wireless networking, the device can auto-sync content from one computer or stream content from up to five additional computers to a TV.

“Apple TV is like a DVD player for the 21st century—you connect it to your entertainment system just like a DVD player, but it plays digital content you get from the Internet rather than DVDs you get from a physical store,” said Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO. “Apple TV plays the same iTunes content that users enjoy on their computers and iPods, so now they can even watch part of a movie in their living room, and watch the rest later on their iPod.”

Analyst: iTV will expand Apple’s move into the living room

Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster expects Apple to release the retail version of the iTV at Macworld Expo next week, and says that the wireless media streaming device will expand the company’s move into the living room. “With the release of the iTV, Apple will continue its slow-but-steady push into the living room,” Munster says. “The AirPort Express (released Jun-04) enables iTunes wireless music streaming to a stereo. Apple’s Front Row application provides a media hub for music, movies and photos on a Mac. But the iTV is Apple’s simplest solution for accessing digital content via a TV and, therefore, its strongest push into the living room.”

Report: Apple in talks to bring Google videos to iTV

Newsweek reports that Apple is in talks with Google to offer videos from the search giant’s online video service on Apple’s forthcoming iTV media device. In addition to streaming videos, photos and music, the iTV will also be able to stream content from the web, such as movie trailers, according to Apple CEO Steve Jobs’ demo of the device. “Is it possible that when iTV ships next year, you may also be able to choose a menu item called Google Video, and then zip through the best of the thousands of user-submitted videos on the search giant’s service? Google’s consumer product chief, Marissa Mayer, tells me that indeed, the two companies are engaged in talks,” reports Newsweek’s Steven Levy. It should be noted that Google CEO Eric Schmidt recently joined Apple’s board of directors.

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