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Wednesday, September 1, 2010

New Apple TV: $99, Netflix streaming, $0.99 TV rentals


Apple TV

The second-generation Apple TV.

(Credit: Apple)

After a flurry of last-minute rumors, Apple announced its completely revamped Apple TV at its keynote Wednesday, featuring a much smaller design, 99-cent TV rentals from ABC and Fox, and Netflix streaming capabilities. The new Apple TV will come out in late September and will cost $99, which is a large decrease from the current $230 price of the old Apple TV.

The new design is about a quarter the size of the original Apple TV, and its connectivity has been stripped to just four ports: HDMI, optical digital audio output, Ethernet, and power. There's also built-in Wi-Fi, so you won't need to drag an Ethernet cord into the living room. Unlike the old model, the new Apple TV doesn't have onboard storage, instead it streams all content either directing from the Internet or other devices on your home network. The capability to switch from watching a video on your iPad to your Apple TV was shown during the keynote, but as of now it's unclear what content--iTunes rentals, YouTube, and so on--you can use with that functionality. Apple is also including an updated aluminum remote control.

The 99-cent TV rentals, even for HD content, from Disney and Fox represent a significant break from current online TV streaming prices. Services such as iTunes and Amazon Video on Demand currently offer you the capability to purchase TV episodes for $2 ($3 for HD episodes) and don't have rental options. While the selection of TV shows is limited to just ABC and Fox for now, the availability of cheap TV rentals that can be watched on your Apple TV, iPhone or iPad, is an attractive package, especially for those looking to ditch their monthly cable subscription. Apple also announced that they're doing away with the capability to purchase movies, moving to a rental-only pricing plan for movies on the Apple TV as well.

The Apple TV's Netflix interface.

The Apple TV's Netflix interface.

(Credit: Apple)

The addition of Netflix streaming is also a big change for Apple TV, which was previously limited to iTunes and YouTube streaming video content. Apple TV has lagged behind its competitors with Netflix streaming capabilities, as it's widely available on Blu-ray players, game consoles, HDTVs and set-top boxes like the Roku Digital Video Player. Even other Apple products, including both the iPad and iPhone, have been capable of streaming Netflix before the Apple TV.