Apple has launched a tiny new Apple TV set-top box targeting TV show rentals, costing just 99c. It will launch with support from ABC, ABC Family, Fox, Disney Channel and BBC America, writes David Fox.
"We think the rest of the studios will see the light and get on board with us pretty fast," said Apple CEO, Steve Jobs.
It will be part of Apple's iTunes service, starting with the US for TV shows, although movie rentals are available in the US, Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, New Zealand and the UK, with more being added later in the year.
The Apple TV box is a quarter of the size of the previous version launched as a "hobby" in 2006, less than half the price ($99 compared to $229), and billed as very simple to use.
Although Apple "sold a lot" of the first version, Jobs admitted that "it's never been a huge hit. Nor has any other competitive product. Nothing's hit in the living room yet. But we've talked to people who use Apple TVs, and they love them."
Its ‘hobby’ has given Apple a lot of useful feedback, particularly that users want Hollywood movies and TV shows whenever they want them. "And they want everything in HD. The HD revolution is over. It happened. HD won."
Users also don't want a computer for TV. They want TVs for entertainment, not as another computer. "They don't want another computer, and this is really hard for people in the computer industry to understand," he said (perhaps referring to the upcoming Google TV). They also don't want to manage storage or even think about it. And they want the hardware to be silent, cool, and small.
And, of course: "They'd like to pay lower prices for content," he added.
The new Apple TV, which will be available in about four weeks, is all about streaming content, whether from iTunes, YouTube, Netflix, Flickr, other computers in the house, or even from iPhones, iPod Touches or iPads – which will all be able to stream any content to Apple TV via AirPlay WiFi streaming with no syncing required. AirPlay will be available on iPhones and iPod Touches with iOS 4.1 (available next week) and for the iPad soon with iOS 4.2.
So far Apple's 160 million iTunes users in 23 countries have downloaded some 450 million TV episodes (which were available to buy), as well as about 100 million movies (it is claimed to be the largest online library of movies to rent in the world at up to $4.99 for a first run HD movies, available on the same date as the DVD). TV show rentals will be viewable for 48 hours.
At the launch event, Apple also announced a new version of the iPod Touch, which will now become a low cost HD video production unit – as it gains a camera and will be able to run Apple's iMovie editing app.