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.
Without any accompanying description, Apple has released version 2.0.1 of the Apple TV software, available as a free download from the device’s General settings menu under Update Software. Launched in February, version 2.0 of Apple TV’s software—also known as Apple TV Take 2—added substantial functionality to the device, including a new menuing system, Internet-based photo browsing, and support for high-definition and standard-definition movie rentals, but has been subject to random lockups and crashes. It is unclear whether version 2.0.1 includes anything beyond bug fixes.
Update: In addition to a new Genres sorting sub-menu for the My Movies menu option, allowing you to more quickly navigate a long list of movies via categorization, a list of additional version 2.0.1 changes appears in the Comments section below.
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 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,
. 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.
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 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 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 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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.