Apple Upgrades "Hobby" Apple TV with New Form Factor, Netflix Streaming, $99 Price and Rentals Only

Surviving the saccharine Chris Martin conclusion to today's Apple Special Event, there were a few more notable announcements that didn't involve wanting to pierce our eardrums. First and foremost, Apple's "One More Thing" was an update to their "hobby" project: the Apple TV…

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Reduced to an impressive quarter of its previous size, the new Apple TV is a squarish hockey-puck device which has abandoned the media purchasing model for rental-only options. HD rentals from ABC and Fox are just 99 cents, but there is no longer any physical drive to store purchased-rented programs, requiring cloud-streaming for your TV viewing pleasure. The new Apple TV will still be able to play HD movies from their catalog much like the last update, but now users can view user and Rotten Tomatoes reviews before users plunk down any cash.

Netflix subscribers will likely be extremely pleased with the integration of Netflix Streaming in the new device. Although Jobs called the new Netflix interface "the best ever", we'll reserve judgment when we get our hands on one 4 weeks from now.

Apple TV features include:

  • New remote (is it Bluetooth?)
  • HDMI
  • Ethernet
  • 802.11n wi-fi
  • Optical Audio
  • USB
  • Flickr and YouTube integration
  • Streaming from computer
  • Remote App compatible with iPhone, iPad and iPod touch
  • AirPlay integration with iPad to Apple TV with iOS 4.2 update in November
  • Reduced $99 price, available in 4 weeks (">pre-order available today)

Is this enough to take the Apple TV from hobby to dominant digital media delivery device? Probably not. Despite the lower entry purchase price and rental model, people generally still prefer to have the option to own movies and television shows they want to view. Also, with many people converting their DVD collections into digital formats, it's still left to be known how the updated device performs streaming from computer to Apple TV. Also, Apple's resolution limitation to 720p seems a more than a step behind where the public is becoming increasingly aware of the vast difference between 720p vs. 1080p content. But for us Apple TV users, this update may be enough to warrant an upgrade, partially out of curiosity and also with the hopes the "hobby" one day is truly updated via software update into a bona fide passion.