Owners of the Apple TV in Australia, Canada and the UK were given a nice surprise today with an over-the-air update enabling TV Shows to be purchased and watched directly on the device. It was a curious absence from the Apple TVs in those countries because although users could purchase TV shows from iTunes and on iOS devices (even stream it to the Apple TV with AirPlay) – until now they couldn’t purchase TV content directly from the Apple TV.
Apple hasn’t made any announcement about the update, but prices remain the same as they did previously. The update also introduces the “cloud locker” feature that was introduced with version 4.3 on the US Apple TV. If you are unaware of this feature, it allows you to play previously purchased TV content (the same feature is available for music, apps and books) – all thanks to iCloud.
In our “Let’s talk iPhone” event rumor roundup, we noted Apple could announce a new Apple TV on stage. Earlier this year, a number of separate reports have suggested Apple was working on a new Apple TV with A5 CPU (the same of iPad 2 and iPhone 4S) to enhance the device’s processing capabilities and allow for full 1080p playback. The current Apple TV model packs and A4 processor (iPad, iPhone 4) and plays back video up to 720p, but as we know the October 4th event didn’t see any Apple TV updates among iPod, iOS 5, iCloud and iPhone 4S announcements. A rumor from July even suggested Apple was working on a new video format called HD+ to launch this fall in the iTunes Store alongside a new Apple TV model.
According to a code string found in iOS 5 by 9to5mac, a new AppleTV3,1 is in the works, and it should be an updated version with upgraded internals such as the aforementioned A5 processor. The existing Apple TV model is referenced as AppleTV2,1 — Apple typically uses this kind of references to prepare iOS for upcoming devices. References in the iOS filesystem are never 100% accurate, but new devices found in the past through code strings have turned out to be real most of the time.
With Apple pushing towards 1080p video content with the new iPhone 4S camera and AirPlay Mirroring made possible by the A5 CPU, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see a refreshed Apple TV with faster CPU and more powerful video processing capabilities. As a side note, Apple recently started selling the current-gen Apple TV in more European countries.
Apple Removes TV Rentals from iTunes – Customers “Overwhelmingly Prefer Buying TV Shows”
As first noted by AppleInsider, Apple has removed all options related to TV show rentals on iTunes, the Apple TV’s dedicated interface and its website, deleting a support document that detailed how users could rent episodes using credit in their iTunes accounts. .99-cent TV show rentals were unveiled last September as part of the Apple TV 2nd gen announcement, and touted as a big new feature from Apple with both ABC and Fox on board with their shows. Others, however, dismissed the initiative as a threat to the TV business model — prices were too low according to TV studios. TV shows could be rented from the iTunes Store and watched on a Mac or Windows PC, iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, or Apple TV. Users had 30 days to begin watching a TV show, and 48 hours to complete it.
Today, Apple confirmed to AllThingsD that, as customers prefer buying TV shows, they’ve canceled the rental program entirely. Instead, Apple is now recommending iTunes in the Cloud, an iCloud functionality already live for customers that allows for re-watching and streaming of any previously purchased content on any device. The option was introduced with the latest Apple TV software update.
iTunes customers have shown they overwhelmingly prefer buying TV shows,” Apple spokesman Tom Neumayr said. “iTunes in the Cloud lets customers download and watch their past TV purchases from their iOS devices, Apple TV, Mac or PC allowing them to enjoy their programming whenever and however they choose.
Apple is rumored to be working on a new technology to deliver video to televisions, but right now, the only option for purchasing, streaming and re-downloading TV shows remains iTunes in the Cloud.
Earlier this year at CES, Boxee announced it was developing an iPad companion app to complement the Boxee Box and Boxee installations on PC’s and Macs. Today Boxee has finally delivered and released their iPad app after postponing the initial release date from May.
The main screen of the Boxee iPad app will remind many of the familiar Boxee experience with three streams of videos shown, one is a collection of videos from friends, another is the featured video feed and the last is a stream of videos that you have selected to ‘Watch Later’. Beyond this however, the Boxee iPad app has some more interesting features including what Boxee has dubbed ‘PC to iPad’ and ‘Send to TV’. The former allows any PC/Mac to stream videos directly to the iPad without any syncing or converting (similar to Air Video or Plex) – this feature is enabled with the new Boxee Media Manager which is a lightweight app that allows the streaming from PCs and Macs.
The ‘Send to TV’ functionality incorporates the ability for the iPad to stream video directly to a Boxee Box. What is even cooler is that the Boxee Box (which is also receiving an update from today) now includes an experimental feature where it can now receive AirPlay streams from any iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch – just like an Apple TV can.
You can download Boxee’s iPad app for free on the App Store. Jump the break for the release notes of Boxee for iPad and for a selection of screenshots.
There’s quite a few of you who would love to load up your Apple TV with iOS apps and games (effectively turning the Apple TV into a mini-console), but we’ve settled for jailbreaks in the meantime in order to get the most out of the pocketable media-center. The latest in jailbreaking news comes from appletvblack, whom demonstrate that a simple game of blackjack can be played on the Apple TV through Couch Surfer (a web browser for the big screen). The game is simple, but demonstrates that the Apple TV can access and play media that Apple doesn’t otherwise allow. The Apple TV, currently a “hobby” to be used in conjunction with your existing home television equipment, has the potential to be as functional as an iPhone if Apple opens the platform up to apps. In the meantime, we’ve posted a video after the break that shows off the game of blackjack and just how functional HTML5 based apps for the Apple TV can be.
Apple has just released a new version of iOS for the Apple TV second-generation — iOS 4.3 with build number 8F455. Whilst there is no official changelog for the update yet, a series of tweets from Daring Fireball’s John Gruber suggests iOS 4.3 brings the possibility of streaming purchased TV Shows, including all the shows you’ve already bought in iTunes. Since the introduction of iCloud at the WWDC in June, Apple rolled out new features in iTunes to let users re-download every single purchase they made with their Apple IDs — this applied to music, apps, and books. With a new tab in the same Purchased section, Apple now allows you to re-watch TV Shows you’ve bought through iTunes. The “Purchased” option in iTunes was announced alongside iCloud (which will launch this Fall) and the broader iTunes in the Cloud initiative — in spite of iCloud still being a “beta” for developers, every Mac, iPad, iPhone and Apple TV can benefit from these re-download functionalities now. (more…)
According to a report by Concord Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo relayed by AppleInsider, Apple may not release an updated model of the Apple TV in the third quarter, instead focusing on software updates to extend the AirPlay features of the device and make it compatible with the upcoming next-generation iPhone. Earlier this month, AppleInsider reported they had been hearing rumors of a new HD+ format for movie content set to bring full 1080p capabilities to a version of the Apple TV. Such new Apple TV, according to “people familiar with the matter”, would run Apple’s latest A5 chip to bring the necessary horsepower to play 1080p movies without playback issues. However, if Ming-Chi Kuo’s industry checks are to be believed, it appears Apple may instead roll out new version of iOS for the Apple TV, rather than a hardware refresh.
Looking ahead to the second half of the year, Kuo said his industry checks have turned up no evidence that Apple plans push a hardware revision to the Apple TV into production during the third quarter. Instead, the Cupertino-based company will reportedly take a more measured approach to advancing the platform in 2011, relying instead on an Apple TV Software Update this fall that will allow devices such as the iPad 2 and upcoming iPhone 5 to beam their content to the big-screen.
Apple doesn’t disclose exact sales numbers of iPod touches and Apple TVs, but Ming-Chi Kuo believes the company sold approximately 480,000 units in the second quarter. In the past months, the second-generation Apple TV has proven to be a successful “hobby” for the company: whilst Tim Cook at the Q3 earnings call said they still don’t consider the Apple TV “another leg of the stool”, in the first three months of availability the Apple TV sold over 1 million units, with allegedly 2 million units placed by April 2011. Meanwhile, similar Internet-connected devices failed to capture the attention of the market partly because of non-competitive prices and lack of streaming features — whereas the Apple TV can stream movies and TV shows using iTunes, and can be integrated with iOS devices thanks to AirPlay. Apple is indeed baking a new feature into iOS 5 that will allow users to beam the full contents of an iPad’s screen to the Apple TV, thus making it an interesting solution for wireless gaming and business presentations. Most recently, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings said the Apple TV was “more important” for them as Netflix keeps expanding to new devices, and an experiment by Mac Mini Vault successfully managed to host a webpage on a jailbroken Apple TV 2nd gen.
The iTunes Store and the current generation Apple TV can currently playback 720p video without issue. 1080p video, however, is the apple in every blu-ray owner’s mind. If Apple doesn’t want to provide customers with high-definition video, then why bother streaming video from Apple to the big screen? Movie-goers may want to hold onto the cash in their pocket before they spring for an alternative just a little while longer. AppleInsider was advised that 1080p video could become the norm beginning this fall with the availability of higher definition content and an updated Apple TV.
A higher resolution format for video, dubbed HD+ for 1080p content, is rumored to be an option alongside SD and HD video. 20th Century Fox as well as other large movie studios are said to be submitting films encoded with with an average bitrate of 10,000 kbps at 1920 x 1080p resolution. An updated Apple TV with an A5 processor would have no problems in playing back high definition content — the rumor would also coincide with an updated iPad 2.
If Apple is going to be attacking the media front with 1080p video this fall, a higher resolution iPad to play that 1080p content on makes some sense. While it’s not a confirmation, Apple could roll out an updated Apple TV alongside an iPad 2 HD to play back HD+ video. The iPad 2 HD would be rumored to have a resolution of 2048 x 1536, well beyond the requirement to playback 1080p at full resolution. With the A5 processor already in place, the iPad 2 HD would need nothing more than a display adjustment in coordination with a new content launch.
Kicking off on July 1 at the Roundhouse in London for 31 nights of consecutive live performances from 62 bands, the iTunes Festival 2011 has seen Coldplay, Beady Eye, Arctic Monkeys, Foo Fighters and Mogwai signing up for Apple’s annual initiative, among others. Today Apple released an official app for the iTunes Festival 2011 which, besides letting you check on the schedule for the venue and check out more information about the performing bands, will enable you to follow shows live or on demand “for a limited period from wherever you are in the world”, as well as beam video contents from your iPhone or iPad to an Apple TV or unofficial third-party receiver like MacStories staff favorite AirServer. This is the first time Apple is supporting both the iPhone and iPad with options for live streaming, AirPlay and Apple TV. Apple’s recent experiments with live streaming events include special media events and WWDC keynotes, though they have seemed to refrain from streaming announcements as of lately. It’ll be interesting to see how the app will allow users to watch live concerts come July 1.
You can download the iTunes Festival London 2011 app for free here.