Apple TV 4.3.3 update out the door, adds functionality for playing purchased videos, Vimeo content

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Date: Monday, August 1st, 2011, 13:45
Category: Apple TV, News, Software

If there’s one universal truth, it’s this: updates are nifty.

Per Macworld, Apple on Monday released iOS 4.3.3 for its second-generation Apple TV set top device. Up until now, you could stream any TV shows purchased from the iTunes Store housed on a computer using Apple’s Home Sharing feature or via AirPlay. Both, however, require that the computer be turned on and accessible on your network—and that the files themselves are still on your hard drive. With this latest update, any TV shows you’ve purchased (or downloaded, in the case of free TV show episodes) are instantly available to stream over the Internet as what appears to be an extension of Apple’s iTunes in the Cloud functionality.

Under the TV Shows menu on the Apple TV’s home screen, you’ll now find a Purchased item at the top.

The update also adds support for playing videos from Vimeo, a popular video-sharing website that offers HD hosting.

Apple now includes directly Vimeo upload support in both its iMovie and Final Cut Pro X video-editing applications, so including a viewing option on the Apple TV is both natural and welcome.

To update your Apple TV to the latest software, go to Settings -> General -> Update Software and follow the directions.

At the same time, Apple added the ability to re-download TV shows in iTunes and on iOS devices, as it already does with music, books, and apps.

If you’ve tried the new update on your second-generation Apple TV, let us know what you make of it in the comments.

Apple TV units moving briskly, no signs of updated models for Q3

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Date: Friday, July 29th, 2011, 10:42
Category: Apple TV, News

Albeit not as popular as some of its other products, the Apple TV unit seems to be achieving moderate success, selling roughly 500,000 units per quarter as the 2011 holiday shopping season approaches.

The latest update to Apple’s US$99 streaming media box arrived last fall and within just a few months went on to sell a million units. Even so, Apple has provided no update on sales of the device. Per AppleInsider, Concord Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo tells has stated that his industry checks indicate the company shipped 480,000 units during the second calendar quarter of the year, representing more than 70% year-over-year growth.

Although Apple continues to see Internet television devices as a nascent category, frequently referring to the Apple TV as a “hobby,” when sales of the device are pit against its peers, the Apple TV appears to be a runaway success.

For instance, Logitech said this week that “very modest sales” of its US$249 Google TV-based Revue set-top-box were exceeded by returns of the product from unhappy customers, prompting the company to slash pricing by 66% to match Apple TV’s US$99 price point.

The move will reportedly cost the device maker some US$34 million in one-time charges as it hopes to “remove price as a barrier to broad consumer adoption.” The failed partnership with Google also contributed to a US$29.6 million loss for Logitech during its fiscal first quarter, prompting the exist of chief executive Gerald P. Quindlen.

Looking ahead to the second half of the year, Kuo said his industry checks have turned up no evidence that Apple plans push a hardware revision to the Apple TV into production during the third quarter. Instead, the Cupertino-based company will reportedly take a more measured approach to advancing the platform in 2011, relying instead on an Apple TV Software Update this fall that will allow devices such as the iPad 2 and upcoming iPhone 5 to beam their content to the big-screen.

The technology, dubbed AirPlay, essentially allows devices equipped with Apple’s A5 processor and the forthcoming iOS 5.0 update to mirror their video content from supporting applications to HDTVs hooked up to an Apple TV. While ideal for sharing video with friends and family, the feature is even more significant for Apple’s encroachment on the gaming market, as it will allow any iOS game developer to offer console-style gaming (demos below) by which the the iPhone or iPad transforms into a wireless controller, equipped with gyro sensors and touch-screen controls.

Even so, Apple continues to struggle with the second prong of its Apple TV strategy: HD video content. Unlike the inaugural Apple TV that offered a trove of archived television content priced between US$2 and US$3 an episode, the company continues to face opposition from networks who feel the new Apple TV’s US$0.99 per episode HD rental model devalues their content, according to people familiar with the matter.

Over the past year, Apple has failed to reach licensing agreements with content producers that would have them join Fox and partner Disney, for which Apple chief executive Steve Jobs is a director and largest individual shareholder, in providing their television content to Apple TV users. As such, Apple is now reportedly in talks to grow its streaming video business through a potential acquisition of Hulu, an ad-supported streaming service that offers video content from NBC, ABC, USA, Bravo, FX, A&E, and numerous other television networks.

“[W]e love the product. It’s clear that customers love the product,” Apple chief operating office Tim Cook said this month of the Apple TV. “We really guided right when we went to the new Apple TV just last fall. But right now, it’s still a hobby status that we’re continuing to invest in it because we think that there is something there.”

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Apple developing iOS-based HDTV for late 2011 release

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Date: Wednesday, June 22nd, 2011, 07:35
Category: Apple TV, Hardware, Rumor

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Sometimes you have to turn a hobby into a full-time job.

Per DailyTech, Apple is rumored to be working on an iOS-powered connected TV, possibly for release as early as this fall.

A former Apple executive, speaking anonymously, said the company plans to “blow Netflix and all those other guys away” by bundling Apple TV + iTunes inside a physical display, DailyTech reports. Apple is reportedly teaming up with a major supplier to provide the rebranded television sets, the source noted.

When questioned why an OEM would cut into its sales by providing Apple with units, the source said, “If you have to be competing with somebody, you want to be competing with yourself.”

The tipster indicated a planned fall launch, while noting that the product could get pushed to next year because of Apple’s “high standards.” A fall launch could coincide with the launch of the next-generation iPhone, as well as iOS 5 and iCloud.

“You’ll go into an Apple retail store and be able to walk out with a TV. It’s perfect,” the source said. According to the unverified report, the iOS-driven televisions would support third-party apps.

Rumors of an Apple Smart TV have existed for years, with Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster repeatedly forecasting the product. Munster has suggested that an Internet-connected TV from Apple may have a starting price in the range of US$2,000.

In March, Morgan Stanley analyst Katy Huberty said Asian suppliers had told her Apple had built a Smart TV prototype. According to Huberty, an Apple-branded TV could add as much as US$4 billion per 1 percent share of the TV market Apple is able to capture over the next two years.

Then, in April, Brian White with Ticonderoga Securities said “data points” from a China electronics trade show suggested Apple could launch an HDTV set possibly by the end of the year. “Our research suggests this Smart TV would go well beyond the miniature US$99 second-generation Apple TV that the company released last fall and provide a full-blown TV product for consumers,” White said.

Though Apple CEO Steve Jobs said last year that the Apple TV set top box product is “a hobby” for the company, sales of the US$99 second-generation model have improved over the first-generation. After the company sold 250,000 units in the first six weeks of availability, Jobs said Apple was “thrilled” with the figures.

Apple went on to sell 1 million Apple TVs within three months of the device’s launch. However, analysts have estimated that a million units per quarter would amount to a “fairly immaterial” $400 million in annual revenue.

Analyst Ming-Chi Kuo of Concord Securities said in April that Apple TV sales had reached 2 million, reportedly selling 820,000 units in the March quarter.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple TV 4.2.2 update out the door

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Date: Thursday, May 12th, 2011, 03:59
Category: Apple TV, News, Software

A new software update addresses a variety of minor issues for users of the second generation “black box” A4-powered Apple TV. You can install the update on your Apple TV by navigating to Settings -> General -> Update Software and following the directions there.

Per AppleInsider, the update, which is the second minor update to version 4.2, is named 4.2.2, but internally is described as iOS 4.3 build 8F305, addresses a half dozen minor issues:

- Audio: Addresses an issue in which audio is not output when playing some video content.

- Video playback: Addresses an issue in which video is not displayed when playing some content.

- Audio output setting: Adds an audio output setting for switching to 16-bit audio for compatibility with some TVs and AV receivers.

- Live FF/RW improvements: Improves the performance of fast-forwarding and rewinding live events.

- Movie description: Addresses an issue in which the description information is not displayed for some movies.

- YouTube video order: Addresses an issue in which YouTube subscription videos were not ordered by date.

Users of the original, Intel-based Apple TV are still stuck with software update 3.0.1, as that model is now discontinued.

If you’ve tried the update and noticed any major changes, please let us know.

Apple TV 4.2.1 update released, addresses “HDTV flicker” issue

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Date: Wednesday, March 23rd, 2011, 03:52
Category: Apple TV, News, Software

Apple on Tuesday released a minor update for its second-generation Apple TV set top box, with software version 4.2.1 addressing an issue that caused screen flickering on some older high-definition TVs.

Per AppleInsider, the Apple TV Software Update 4.2.1 can now be downloaded directly from the device. It applies only to the second-generation Apple TV, released last year. The new version’s fixes and changes include the following:

- TV compatibility: Addresses issues that may cause the screen to flicker or display incorrect color on some older TVs.

- Wake from sleep: Addresses an issue where Apple TV may not wake from sleep.

- Audio: Addresses an issue where audio may not be heard on some TV models after switching from another input.

- Stability and performance: Apple TV software Update 4.2.1 includes stability and performance fixes for Apple TV.

If you’ve tried the new update and have any feedback, please let us know in the comments.

Apple confirms upcoming fix for Apple TV/HDTV flicker issue

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Date: Tuesday, March 15th, 2011, 08:28
Category: Apple TV, News, Software

Following up on Friday’s Apple TV story, a software fix is is said to be in the works for users who have experienced screen flickering issues after updating to the latest firmware for the Apple TV set top box.

Per AppleInsider, an Apple support representative has confirmed that Apple is aware of the issues caused by the latest update to the Apple TV, software version 4.2, AppleInsider has learned. The Cupertino, Calif., company is said to be working on a fix that will address the screen flickering problems for a small number of users.

No timeframe was given for when the fix might be released, but it is a sign that Apple is aware of the problems experienced by some with older high-definition television sets.

Last week, a number of users complained about screen flickering problems caused by the 4.2 update for Apple TV. The problems occur on a variety of TV sets from different manufacturers, affecting major brands including Sony, Panasonic, Hitachi, Samsung and Toshiba.

Users have experienced flickers and screen flashes with direct HDMI video connections, as well as with an HDMI to DVI video adapter. The problems did not exist before Apple released the Apple TV 4.2 update last Wednesday.

The latest software update added streaming Major League Baseball and National Basketball League games, support for AirPlay wireless streaming in third-party applications, and Dolby Digital 5.1 sound output for Netflix Instant Watch streaming movies. But for some users converting the 720p output of the Apple TV, the software update also caused problems.

The new $99 Apple TV, released last year, does not output video in the 1080i high definition format. But some older HDTVs are only capable of displaying 1080i video.

Some TV sets and receivers will accept a 720p resolution video from a device like the Apple TV, and automatically convert it to the compatible 1080i resolution. While this conversion worked fine for many TV sets before the 4.2 Apple TV update, those with 1080i displays began experiencing the flickering issue after last weeks’ update.

In addition, some users have been unable to change the HDMI output setting on the Apple TV with the latest software update. Affected users said their HDMI output has been set to “Auto,” and their picture has been changed to a non-high-definition 480p picture, which cannot be changed.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple TV users report screen flickering issue on some HDTV sets after Apple TV 4.2 update

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Date: Friday, March 11th, 2011, 04:24
Category: Apple TV, News

As good as Apple’s intentions might have been, there might be an issue at hand.

Per the Apple Discussions forum, the latest update for the Apple TV set top box has created new issues and problems for some, as numerous users have reported screen flickering with various high-definition TV sets.

A number of users has posted that screen flickering issues that arose after the Apple TV 4.2 update released this week. The problems reportedly occur on a variety of TV sets from different manufacturers.

“There is a flicker (screen flash?) at random intervals of about once per second for a few tenths of a second,” user RamonOC wrote. “And every 10-15 seconds (random), there is a complete video dropout for about a second or two. The audio is OK during all of this. It seems to affect every type of video including both menus and movies, including Netflix and home sharing.”

Owners of TV sets made by Sony, Panasonic, Hitachi, Samsung, and Toshiba have reported similar issues after installing the 4.2 update. The flickering issue has been reported with a variety of configurations, including with a direct HDMI video connection, or with an HDMI to DVI adapter.

Most of the users who have shared their problems in the forum seem to own older TV sets that run at the 1080i resolution. The new US$99 Apple TV, released late last year, does not support 1080i, but many TV sets and receivers will accept a 720p input and simply convert it to the compatible 1080i resolution.

Conversion of the Apple TV from 720p to 1080i reportedly worked fine for many users prior to the 4.2 update, which Apple released on Wednesday. The software update expanded support for AirPlay, added access to live streaming games from NBA League Pass and MLB.TV, and brought 5.1 Dolby Digital surround sound for streaming Netflix movies and TV shows.

In addition to flickering issues, users said they are unable to change the HDMI output setting on the Apple TV after the 4.2 update was installed. For those users, HDMI output has been set to “Auto,” and some have had their output resolution changed to a non-high-definition 480p picture which cannot be changed.

“I contacted Apple Tech Support tonight, and they sent it up to engineering,” user kag49601 wrote. “The tech I spoke with had not heard of the problem yet, but after reading this thread, I am surprised by that… Hopefully we will all get another update to this so we can use our apple tv 2′s with our older TV’s once again.”

If you’ve experienced this issue on your end, please let us know.

Gaming references reported in iOS 4.3 beta code strings, could point towards expanded role for Apple TV

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Date: Thursday, February 10th, 2011, 06:44
Category: Apple TV, News, Software

It’s the inadvertent hints that make technology interesting.

Per Engadget, references to gaming and a possible controller for the Apple TV have been discovered in the iOS 4.3 beta code, suggesting that Apple could be planning to take on traditional gaming consoles over control of the TV.

Prior to Apple’s announcement of the new US$99 streaming Apple TV, rumors swirled that the device, which runs a variant of iOS, could gain support for third-party iOS apps in the next revision. Those rumors failed to materialize, but a new report claims to have found evidence of future gaming features for the Apple TV in an iOS 4.3 beta.

The article reports that a tipster has notified them of references to online gaming support in a recent iOS 4.3 beta. “Several references have been found pertaining to “ATVGames” and “ATVThunder” that point to a controller of some sort, leaderboards (think Game Center), a way to schedule games (multiplayer?), and a store front (think App Store, iTunes),” the report noted.

Two strings, “com.apple.appletv.play.live.thunder” and “.play.archive.thunder,” may point to the possibility of streaming games to the Apple TV or archiving them for offline play. The report’s source speculated that “the OpenGL is mature and thoroughly implemented enough that streaming low bandwidth data and computing locally could happen,” though the report was quick to disclaim that there’s nothing in the code to suggest that will be the case.

Two more codenames, Sedona and Flagstaff, named after cities in Arizona, were also discovered in the beta. With references to director, episode and season, Sedona may be a new “video merchandising and streaming” feature, according to the report. The Flagstaff code references “Account Types and Merchants,” but otherwise remains a mystery.

The popularity of games on iOS has contributed to the runaway success of the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch, while also putting handheld gaming device makers like Sony and Nintendo on the defensive. Apple CEO Steve Jobs boasted in September last year that the iPod touch had become the “world’s most popular game player.”

Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aime told reporters last year that Apple is a bigger threat than Xbox maker and rival Microsoft. Sony and Google will team up against Apple in a new PlayStation Suite for Android platform that will bring PlayStation games to Google’s mobile OS.

According to a December 2010 report by Interpret, Apple’s iOS devices are displacing standalone gaming devices, as the proportion of games played on the Nintendo DS and Sony PSP have declined 13% over the last year.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple looking to hire two software engineers to expand iOS’ “cloud-based” features

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Date: Wednesday, December 29th, 2010, 04:05
Category: Apple TV, iPad, iPhone, iPod, News

When in doubt, there’s always cloud-based services to makes things nifty.

Per AppleInsider, Apple is looking to expand its iOS development team with new employees who will enhance the company’s cloud-based services for devices like the iPhone and iPad.

Just before Christmas, Apple posted two new job listings (1, 2) for the title of “iOS Software Engineer.” While the two full-time positions have different job descriptions, both describe an emphasis on remote storage for data access.

“Apple is hiring outstanding operations engineers to deliver and manage the next generation of hosted infrastructure serving Apple products and services,” one of the listings reads. The other says, “Apple is hiring experienced software engineers to work on distributed computing for data with non-trivial properties, and efficient online services for data access.”

One of the positions also seeks a candidate who has “experience developing large-scale offline or online storage systems.” Both positions are based at Apple’s Cupertino, Calif., campus.

Some may view the hirings as further evidence of a cloud-based iTunes or other MobileMe-style services from Apple. The hirings could also be an effort by the company to bolster its new cloud-centric Apple TV, a device that also runs a version of the lightweight iOS operating system.

Numerous reports have indicated that Apple is interested in creating its own cloud-based iTunes service, which could allow users to stream their own music library from any Internet-connected device. It is believed that some of the functionality could come from Apple’s acquisition of Lala.

There’s also an e-mail allegedly sent by Apple Chief Executive Steve Jobs earlier this month, in which he purportedly said that his company’s MobileMe service would “get a lot better in 2011.” The US$99-per-year Internet-based service is an existing cloud venture from Apple, but a major portion of it, Find My iPhone, became free with the release of iOS 4.2.

Apple’s massive data center in North Carolina was set to launch this year, though Apple has not yet made any announcements for its potential use. But many have speculated that it will be used for cloud computing, perhaps via MobileMe, and streaming services, likely through iTunes.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple releases Apple TV software update 4.1.1, looks to resolve resolution, download issues

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Date: Wednesday, December 15th, 2010, 06:49
Category: Apple TV, News, Software

Late Tuesday Apple released Apple TV software update 4.1.1 for the second-generation Apple TV, fixing some issues with TVs displaying the incorrect resolution and a downloading problem where movies or TV shows are re-downloaded.

Per AppleInsider, the updated comes just weeks after software update 4.1, which added AirPlay support and fixed some performance and connectivity issues.

According to Apple’s support documents, the 4.1.1 update addresses “an issue that causes some high-definition TVs to incorrectly display at 480p” and “an issue that may cause a movie or TV show to be re-downloaded.”

One user commented that installing the update resolved a flickering issue on his TV. “My TV (Fujitsu) 42″ (2004 model) only has a DVI port (no HDMI),” the reader wrote. “I use a HDMI to DVI cable to watch the Apple TV content. Previously, the TV flickered on the top and on the right. After the update, the flickering was gone. The system works perfectly fine now.”

Other users, found that the update doesn’t resolve their issues. Earlier this month, users stated they were experiencing HDMI “handshaking” issues and abnormally long download times.

On the Apple support forum thread detailing the HDMI connection issue, several users assert that installing the 4.1.1 software update failed to resolve their HDMI handshake issues, which cause inverted colors or solid color images.

The update can be located, snagged and installed via the Software Update feature on the set top device. If you’ve tried the update and have anything to report back, please let us know.