Apple today announced a long-awaited update to its Apple TV home entertainment device, significantly reducing the size of the device and shifting the focus to a streaming rather than syncing model. Almost entirely preserving the interface of the Apple TV 3.0 software update, the new Apple TV device will now include the aluminum seven-button Apple Remote that was previously released but not included with the device, while dropping the component video and stereo audio ports in favor of one HDMI port and an optical audio port. The new Apple TV measures 0.9” by 3.9” by 3.9”, and weighs 0.6 pounds. Its black plastic shell is flat and mostly matte on top with a glossy Apple TV logo, tapering on the sides from glossy straight sides to a gentle secondary flat surface on the bottom, elevating the bulk of its body off of the table it’s on. Now powered by the Apple A4 chip, the system supports full 802.11n networking—2.4GHz and 5GHz—as well as 802.11a/b/g standards, and continues to have 720p H.264 and M-JPEG support, with 640×480 MPEG-4 support—like the prior Apple TV.
At Apple’s event today, Steve Jobs reiterated that the goals of the new Apple TV design were to provide Hollywood movies & TV shows, all content in HD, lower content prices and reduce the dependency on computer and storage management. As part of the new design and goal of reducing storage requirements, the new Apple TV will move to an entirely rental-based model with no purchases available on the device. First-run movies will be released as HD Rentals for $5 on the same day as the DVD release, and HD TV Shows will now be available for rent for $1, commercial free, as opposed to the prior $3 per episode price. Content will be initially be available from the ABC and FOX networks, with other networks hopefully coming on board in the future. The new Apple TV will also provide support for Netflix streaming in the U.S. in addition to its current support for streaming videos from YouTube and photos from Flickr and MobileMe. The new Apple TV will also continue to include support for streaming content from an iTunes library. The new Apple TV will be priced at $99 and will be available from Apple Stores and online in about four weeks, with pre-orders starting today.