Today was every Apple lover’s birthday as Steve Jobs stood up in San Francisco to deliver his traditional post Christmas bag of goodies at MacWorld.
While his announcement of the ‘thinnest notebook computer in the world’, the MacBook Air, has been getting most of the press, the most significant announcement for me was a major upgrade to the AppleTV.
Perhaps the least known and least successful of Apple’s recent consumer devices, the AppleTV was a product ahead of its time when it launched just under a year ago. It was hobbled by poor software and poor content offerings, complicated further by the now common geographic restrictions on content.
Well the geographic restrictions remain, but everything else is now fixed with today’s announcement that all AppleTV users will get a free software upgrade in two weeks time, that will unveil a host of new and very cool features. For a start, the AppleTV will become your in home movie rental store. For $4.99 you’ll be able to rent the latest movies from all the major movie studios in HIGH DEFINITION. (Bye bye Netflix and their clones, bye bye Blockbuster).
One of the big problems with version 1 of AppleTV was that you had to network it with another mac in your house to get access to music and video podcasts. It was a pain in the behind frankly even if you did get it connected, and my own AppleTV sat unused on a shelf for the past 10 months. With version 2 of AppleTV, you can now do everything directly from the AppleTV itself, as it should be.
The TV content selection still leaves a lot to be desired, but direct access to thousands of video podcasts, including high definition ones, means a host of free content on your living room wall. Access to Flickr and .Mac photos is pretty cool, but the killer app in my view is high def movie rentals, existing YouTube functionality, and HD video podcasts.
For more coverage, see the AppleTV page on Apple.com or watch Steve Job’s keynote in full.