Apple might actually be unsure of where to go with their little “hobby”. The Apple TV hasn’t really changed that much since its introduction. The ability to rent movies and buy content from the iTunes store was nice but in the grand scheme of things it really is just a way for Apple to make money from Apple TV owners.
But, now Apple has began asking recent Apple TV purchasers to take an online survey about how they use their Apple TV. The questions in the survey asked about what hardware the Apple TV is used with and where the video they watch on it came from. The survey even goes so far as to ask “If you could change one thing about your Apple TV, what would that be?”
Since I’ve had my Apple TV for as long as I have (before Take 2 was announced) I haven’t been asked to answer the survey but I will answer the most interesting question right here.
The one thing I would change about the Apple TV is that I would add the ability to plugin an Elgato EyeTV and turn the Apple TV into a DVR. The Apple TV would record content onto its internal hard drive and then sync it back to the iTunes Library the Apple TV is linked with. I would be able to watch live television through my Apple TV and schedule recordings with an onscreen guide. The recorded content would have the proper tags in the file so that the episode name, actors, episode number, season number, etc. was all filled out for me.
I know that this would probably never happen since it would cut into iTunes TV show and movie sales but it really is my dream. And, I didn’t even get into the fact that it would be better just because it was made by Apple (in a way I can’t even explain).
During Apple’s latest earnings conference call Tim Cook said said that sales of the Apple TV were up 3 times what they were at the same point last year. Although they still describe the Apple TV as a hobby Cook noted, “We think there’s something there.”
I’m convinced that the Apple TV was the best purchase I’ve made in the past decade when it comes to home theater gear (not including my HDTV of course) and truly believe that Apple is going to do some really interesting things with it in the coming years. But, the fact that it is selling so well is what gets me excited. I hope that some day I won’t have to explain to people what the Apple TV is when I mention it in conversation.
Apple also dismissed the idea of a low end iPhone in the same earnings call saying “We’re not going to play in the low end voice phone business. That’s not who we are, that’s not why we’re here. Goal is not to lead unit sales, but to build the world’s best phone.”
Regarding Apple’s interest in the netbook market Cook said “we’re watching that space, but from our [point of view] the products are based on hardware that’s much less powerful, software technology that’s not good, cramped siplays. We don’t think that people are going to be pleased with those type of products. It’s a category we watch, we have some ideas here, but we think the products there now are inferior and won’t provide the kind of experience people want.”
So all indications show that Apple isn’t going to sell an iPhone Nano or a Mac Netbook, but then of course if you remember that Steve Jobs said that they never wanted to have a video iPod and now one of the best features of the flagship iPod is video playback.
Although Apple’s invitation clearly stated that they will be talking about notebooks there have been several rumors lately that have cropped up and many of them coming from fairly reliable sources.
Kevin Rose said in the latest live Diggnation episode (not currently available for download) that Blu-ray drives would become an option for high end MacBook Pros. Kevin Rose has been incredibly accurate lately with his predictions and has also previously stated that Blu-ray support would be coming in version 10.5.6 of OS X.
There have been many predicting that we might see some early signs of iLife and iWord ’09 but I don’t really see much validity to these rumors and see them merely as wishful thinking.
Jason Calacanis is even saying that he knew first-hand that Apple has been working on a networked television.
“These LCD HDTVs will be fully networked, with the ability to stream all their iTunes content from your Mac or PC. In fact, Calacanis told me they’ll function like a standard TV with an Apple TV box, only without the need for the box.” –Nate Lanxon, CNET.
I’m pretty sure that if this was announced Apple would have to also announce new Cinema Displays because I don’t know if I would be able to deal with the outcry from customers complaining about how Apple is capable of releasing an HDTV but hasn’t been able to rev the displays in years.
This is how these events always go though, more and more rumors and speculation than the event could ever contain and because of that inevitably, people will be terrible disappointed. I on the other hand expect nothing more than new notebooks and to be honest, if that was all Apple was to show off I would be very satisfied. And besides, there is always Macworld.
Update: MacX.cn has posted some higher quality images of the MacBook and MacBook Pro cases. A couple of them are below and you can see the rest of them here.
I actually first heard about the aTV Flash a month or so ago but decided not to write about it because it seemed a little fishy to me. But, now that some of the bigger blogs out there decided to write about it I figured it must actually work.
The idea behind the aTV Flash is very simple, it is basically just a USB flash drive preloaded with some software that once plugged into the Apple TV it automatically hacks the Apple TV to add multiple codec support, the Couch Surfer browser, SSH access, etc.
The aTV Flash is compatible with all Apple TV’s including the old software and Take Two and the makers of the aTV Flash offer free updates for a year. It is a little bit expensive, coming in at $59.95 it isn’t exactly cheap, especially since all of these hacks can be done by yourself for free but the convenience may be worth the cost.
AppleInsider reported yesterday that Apple had filed a patent for a DVR application that could be used in future releases of the AppleTV. The DVR would have on screen menus similar to what you would find in DVRs of today but would also feature a remote with an LCD screen that would let you decide what programs you wanted to record while only interacting with the remote.
It’s very funny to me that Apple has a patent on this, not that it is a dumb patent or anything like that but because shortly after NBC pulled content out of iTunes I had several conversations with friends of mine about how Apple could build a USB TV Tuner for the AppleTV (possibly with the help of elgato) that would use its USB port. I figured that would be a great way for Steve Jobs to say to NBC “Ok if you don’t want to cooperate with us than we’ll make it easy for our customers to get your content by recording it… without any DRM.” I figured that would shake things up a bit in the whole NBC not in iTunes deal.
The only problem is that Apple isn’t really the kind of company that would come out with an add-on for an existing product, it’s not very Apple-like, it is more likely that they would have a hardware refresh for something like this to be done.
The patent filing does look really cool, often times patent filings just don’t seem like anything I would want but this is something I would definitely want.
Yesterday Apple released version 7.6.1 of iTunes which fixes several unnamed bugs and improves compatibility with the AppleTV 2.0 software.
Apple also announced that they will begin offering a discount on select movie titles for rental. There will be one movie per week that will only cost $0.99 to rent, starting with the movie The Hours. The special pricing takes effect on Thursday and lasts until Monday.
Apple also regularly offers free music and occasionally offers free and discounted TV show episodes, the addition of discounted on movie rentals is most likely being done to promote the service, I know it will get me renting more movies (especially the discounted ones).
One of the first things I wanted to play with when I downloaded the AppleTV software update was AirTunes. The ability to play music from any computer in my house through the speakers in my living room was a really cool concept.
I also went out and downloaded the trial version of Airfoil which lets you take sound from any application on your computer and sends it over AirTunes. Unfortunatly Airfoil didn’t work with the AppleTV then.
Today Rogue Amoeba released version 3.1 of Airfoil which DOES work with the AppleTV. So I just downloaded it and played around with it and it works great. Right now I’m listening to Pandora through the speakers in my living room and it sounds great.
I suggest that everyone with an AppleTV spend the $25 for this program because it is worth every penny.
I just downloaded the AppleTV Take 2 and at first glance it is really great. From all that I’ve played around with it, I do have one problem with the update, it is too centered around purchasing content.
I already have content on the AppleTV, mostly podcasts and I don’t like that I have to go to the bottom of the secondary menu if I don’t want to buy anything. I would rather Apple just added another menu option at the bottom of the main menu that said something like “iTunes Store” then if I wanted to buy anything it would be within that menu option.
The looks of the update is pretty good, the new interface is gorgeous and looks really great on my 42″ LCD. The iTunes Store is very easy to navigate and it isn’t too hard to find anything that you want, I haven’t yet purchased anything on it but I’m just happy that I can finally watch Fantastic Four Rise of the Silver Surfer, I only have 3 days left.
I’ve been waiting for nearly two weeks to watch “Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer,” it has been sitting on my MacBook just waiting to be transfered to my AppleTV. In 17 days the movie will expire and I may have to watch it on my laptop or iPhone instead of my AppleTV (no fun).
The focus of the press release though was to let everyone know that the MacBook Air is shipping, and, I don’t really care.
As we get further and further away from Macworld my early anticipation for the MacBook Air has subsided. Although I still think it’s a great notebook I think it would be a much better deal if it was priced at $1,499 (that would make it much easier for people to purchase the notebook). The current price is just too expensive, which makes me think that for most people purchasing the Black MacBook at $1,499 would be a much better deal.
Two weeks ago today was the Steve Jobs Macworld keynote and on that day he said that we will be seeing a software update for the AppleTV in two weeks (which is today).
I’m really excited for this software update, as many of you know I got my AppleTV for Christmas and have been enjoying it ever since but with this software update I will be enjoying it even more.
The one thing that frustrates me about this though is that Apple has lowered the price of the AppleTV to $229. iSuppli is saying that the AppleTV hardware is costing Apple about $208 to manufacture, which means that Apple must have lowered the cost of the AppleTV to basically the cost of the hardware hoping that they would make their profits with the Movie Rentals/TV Show purchases. If my AppleTV was purchased just a few weeks after it was than it would have cost $70 less than it did.
Even though I am very excited for this software update I’m very skeptical as to whether or not I’m going to enjoy the new AppleTV homescreen. I was expecting the homescreen to just have a new button for the iTunes Store, but instead the homescreen is very focused towards purchasing, my AppleTV is mostly used for video podcasts and the fact that I have to go through one more menu to get to them is a little frustrating but I’ll probably get used to it.
A lot of blogs are annoyed by the HD content that will be on the AppleTV, mostly because the content will only be 720p 24fps and the video will only be 4-5mbps. Many HD enthusiasts think that 4-5mbps is a little low and many are saying that it isn’t exactly “HD.” I have a 42″ 720p HDTV and although I can see the difference between HD and SD content I don’t really have much a problem with the iPod formated video, it doesn’t look great but it looks good enough for me, so this bump to 720p will be greatly appreciated and the extra $1 seems very reasonable to me.
To those of you who have an AppleTV I’m sure (just like me) you’ll be hitting “check for updates” fairly regularly.
First off I want to say that I was all kinds of excited for the iTunes movie rentals and yesterday I decided to finally rent a movie through it, there weren’t very many rentable movies that I haven’t seen (and that I was willing to see) so I decided on “Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer” and I have not yet watched the movie. Why haven’t I watched it? you might ask, well it’s because the AppleTV doesn’t work with rented movies yet.
I guess maybe I should have guessed that since the new firmware for the AppleTV won’t be coming out for another couple of weeks but come on now! that means I’m going to have to wait that long until I watch the movie, I love my iPhone but I’m not going to watch an hour and a half long movie on a 3.5″ screen!
The next thing that bothers me, the 5G iPod doesn’t play the rented movies. I understand that Steve Jobs said that only current generation iPods would work with it but I figured if I downloaded a utility like Floola (which allows you to manage videos and music on your iPod without iTunes) than at least I could get the movie on the iPod and maybe it would play.
I was able to get the movie on the iPod by dragging the video file into the Floola window and Floola sent the video to my iPod promptly, the video was listed in the movie section but it wouldn’t play, at all, I would just get a black screen. (My reason for trying it on my iPod is because I have the AV cable and figured if I could get it running than at least I could watch it on my TV).
Anyway so besides me having to wait two weeks to watch this movie I’m super happy with it, the download was quick and I like the new section added to my library (it looks really nice). The lack of 5G iPod support won’t kill the service for me, I don’t use that iPod to watch video that often anyway, but it would have been nice to be able to take the video with me (without having to buy a $49 cable).
The AppleTV Take 2 isn’t a second AppleTV, it’s just the first AppleTV with a wonderful little software update. This in my opinion is the most important part of this years Macworld. This announcement will really put Apple where they should have been with last years release of the AppleTV, but no matter at least they’ll be getting there.
So here is a rundown of the features:
Completely new user interface that looks gorgeous
No computer required for the AppleTV now
Rent movies directly from the AppleTV in DVD quality and HD (more on that in a minute)
Buy TV shows directly from the AppleTV
Buy music directy from the AppleTV
Stream and download podcasts from the iTunes podcast directory without having to download them on your computer.
Look at Flickr and .mac photos as a screen saver or just for browsing
All content purchased on AppleTV will be synced back to your computer (except the HD movies)
The software upgrade will be free for current owners and all new AppleTV owners will get it when it ships in two weeks.
There will be 100 HD titles with more presumably coming soon. The pricing for everything will be the same pricing as if you were purchasing it on your computer. HD titles will be priced at $3.99 for library titles and $4.99 for new releases. Now with all of this new stuff also comes a price drop for the AppleTV itself, it will now be priced at $229 for the 40GB model and $329 for the 160GB model.
The HD movies will be 720p with 5.1 dolby digital surround sound, but the HD movies WILL NOT sync back to your computer and CANNOT be rented through the regular iTunes store, they will only be available on the AppleTV.