At the third-generation iPad event this morning, Apple also took the wraps off of a refresh to the Apple TV hardware. The ATV formula isn’t shaken up in any major way with the new hardware, but it does have one big feature that viewers have been clamoring for.
1080p. The new third-generation Apple TV device, which externally is indistinguishable from the second-generation Apple TV, finally brings full HD 1080p digital content to your television. Accordingly, iTunes now supports 1080p Movies and TV.
The new Apple TV also sports an all new user interface, which showcases various media types and third-party apps — such as YouTube, Netflix, and MLB.com — with colorful new icons right on the home page. (Existing Apple TV owners can upgrade to the new UI right now, you just won’t get 1080p playback.) The new UI also brings with it direct access to view pictures from your iCloud Photo Stream.
Speaking of iCloud, Movies and TV are now supported by iCloud, just like music, so that you can re-download purchased video content on any device.
The new Apple TV ships day-and-date with the new iPad, on March 16th, with pre-ordering available now. And just like the new iPad, the price of the new Apple TV is the same as the last generation: $99.
Overall, the tech specs of the new Apple TV are virtually identical to the old. The exact same ports are on the device, and it supports the same kinds of file types — with the exception of 1080p video files, of course. So aside from the HD picture and some new iCloud features, it’s almost indistinguishable from last-gen. I have two thoughts about this.
First, if you’re already an Apple TV owner, is the compatibility with 1080p enough to entice you to upgrade from your current device? I’ll grant that it’s a big deal for the most discerning of viewers, but Joe Average can’t tell the difference between 720p or 1080p — and probably don’t even know there is a difference. So I tend to think that aside from the hardcore set, the “1080p” buzzword might serve to bring a few newbies on board with Apple TV, but I don’t think this is going to be the killer feature that will get mass amounts of consumers to sign on.
Second, it’s impossible to look at the upgraded UI without wondering if it might offer a small taste of Apple’s fabled iTV. Tim Cook promised at the end of today’s presentation that “there’s a lot to look forward to” in 2012, when it comes to innovation in its product line. Might that innovation also lead to Apple’s proprietary HDTV set that Steve Jobs said he “finally cracked” before his passing?