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The Apple TV Gets A Refresh: New UI, 1080p Playback, Available on March 16 [Photos]

At the media event in San Francisco, Apple CEO Tim Cook announced an update to the Apple TV. The updated model will support 1080p playback, newly added iTunes in the Cloud for movies and TV shows which will allow users to watch their purchased content on-demand in 1080p definition if available. The new Apple TV ships with a new streamlined interface that will make it easier to navigate between apps, browse photos and media from an iCloud account, and initiate playback.

“People are going to love streaming movies and TV shows in 1080p with the new Apple TV, and photos look beautiful displayed at the maximum resolution of your TV,” said Philip Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing. “Apple TV is easier than ever to use with its new icon-based interface and the ability to access your purchased movies, TV shows and music right from iCloud.”

Apple has also prepared several content providers to stream HD quality content to the new Apple TV. Netflix, Vimeo, and of course movies and TV shows available through iTunes will be in HD for consumers on launch day. Apple also stated that there will be over 15,000 movies and over 90,000 TV episodes available on the iTunes Store. Just some of the other notable apps that will be prominently displayed on the Apple TV's new icon based interface includes YouTube, Flickr, and the Wall Street Journal.

The Apple TV also gained greater integration with iCloud today. Now users can purchase, not just rent, movies and TV episodes from the Apple TV and watch them on their all of their Apple devices. iCloud makes it incredibly easy to access all of your digital content regardless of what device you are using.

The new Apple TV will remain only $99, and it will be available on March 16. Pre-orders for the new Apple TV will begin today.

For additional information, check out the Apple press release on the new Apple TV.

Update: MacRumors is reporting that the 5.0 software update for the current (second generation) Apple TV is live and available for download. They also state that not only has Netflix rolled out 1080p streaming but Netflix also has a new billing option that allows customers to pay for their Netflix subscriptions through their iTunes Store accounts.

Update #2: From the short amount of time I have spent with the 5.0 update to the (second-gen) Apple TV, I find it to be a really great upgrade for existing Apple TV owners. I love the new movies and TV shows in the Cloud feature. To test it out, I selected the Movies icon on the home screen, browsed to my purchased videos and found a couple of movies I forgot I had purchased well over a year ago. Selecting my Halloween (2007) movie started it as if I had just rented in through iTunes. The process was simple, fast, and very well implemented.

Screenshots of new 5.0 Software.

Update #3 Ars Technica has details on the processor inside the new Apple TV model. It's not the same of the new iPad.

We asked whether the third-gen Apple TV had the same A5X processor as that in the new iPad (as was previously rumored), but an Apple spokesperson told us that it has a "single-core version of the A5" and it's not the same as what's in the iPad. The CPU is capable of handling 1080p HD video. The spokesperson also claimed that users "only need an 8-10 megabit Internet connection" in order to take advantage of 1080p movies from iTunes, but speaking as someone with experience with the second-generation Apple TV at a mere 720p, this depends highly upon your individual ISP.

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