No longer a hobby? $99 Apple TV drops storage, integrates Netflix

Apple logoApple’s September music event wasn’t entirely about iPods and iTunes this year. Alongside the music players, Apple announced a smaller, black Apple TV that costs $99, has no built-in storage, streams content from iTunes or iOS devices, and fully integrates Netflix into the existing Apple TV interface. Apple's new black box will be available later this month.

Apple CEO Steve Jobs, who made a point of again calling the Apple TV a "hobby," brought out lines we’ve heard before, about how no one—including Apple—has figured out how to make a big impact when it comes to the living room, despite many companies' best efforts. With that as his preface, he announced a product which is a radical departure from the old Apple TV.

Apple TV

The design changes are significant. The new Apple TV is a quarter of the size of its predecessor and is all black—which will help it blend in with HDTVs and various other entertainment center devices. The device now only sports HDMI, power, optical audio, and ethernet ports (along with a diagnostic USB port). It also keeps the built-in 802.11n wireless networking of the previous generation. Unfortunately, the Apple TV still has a maximum video output of 720p, meaning no 1080p streams from iTunes (or Netflix).

Apple TV

The similarities end there. Like the popular Roku box, the new Apple TV now has minimal storage inside the device. This design decision means users can no longer sync media to the Apple TV. Apple has instead opted for a 100 percent streaming model, backed by rentals and computers running iTunes or iOS devices running Apple’s newly announced “AirPlay” technology, which will come to iOS devices courtesy of November's iOS 4.2 update. Users will be able to stream video from any iPhone, iPod Touch, or iPad on the same network, or Mac running iTunes 10. You'll be able to start watching a movie on an iPad, pause, and pick up where you left off on your Apple TV.

On stage, Jobs emphasized his belief that most consumers don't get the concept of syncing files to a TV-connected device, instead merely wanting to watch shows and movies when they want to watch them. He made similar remarks about consumers' unwillingness to have to manage the media on their devices or deal with situations where the device runs out of space. This new revision of the Apple TV eliminates all those scenarios. Before, you could buy television shows and movies from Apple, but now you can only rent them. Entire episodes are no longer downloaded to your device. Instead, they are actively streamed and buffered to the Apple TV as you watch them, and then removed.

Built-in Netflix streaming is another nice addition to the Apple TV interface, complete with instant queue, browsing, and recommended movies and TV shows. There will be no software update to bring the new features to older Apple TVs.

Source: ars technica

Tags: Apple, Apple TV

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