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Apple announces 160GB Apple TV, YouTube deal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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)

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

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.┬áThe 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.

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