Apple announced their new Apple TV yesterday. They’ve not had much success with the set-top box in the past, but that might change with the lowered price tag and ease of use of the new unit. If you’re not familiar with what the new Apple TV is or does it’s a small (very small) box that allows for streaming of media from a variety of sources (mainly the iTunes store). There is no on-board storage, as with previous models. The box does not focus on iTunes purchases, but rather rentals, which I will get into more later. You can also stream from Netflix and YouTube to the device. Unfortunately there is no ability to stream from Hulu (yet?) or other TV providers.
This box isn’t revolutionary. There are a variety of boxes, both with storage and without, available on the market today. Boxes from Roku and Boxee provide similar functionality, as do some Blu Ray players and even game consoles. What Apple brings with the Apple TV is the ability to rent TV shows. This is huge for the industry. For a mere $.99 you can rent a television show and watch it directly on your TV. Viewers have been clamoring for an a la carte option for their viewing habits for years. Apple is trying to be the first company to cater to that desire. Cable and satellite providers don’t want you give you the ability to pick and choose what channels to watch. If you did that they would have a bunch of channels that no one would choose and lose their ability to upsell you on whole packages to get the channels you want.
Hopefully, this will be a game changer for the industry. Imagine if you could just pay for the episodes you wanted to watch in a given week. I can see why some studios might be hesitant to participate in such a model (only ABC and Fox have signed up thus far) but it’s what consumers want. I know I’d be much more inclined to pay $.99 for a TV show rental than downloading illegally. Of course, I also would be more inclined to cancel my $100+ a month UVerse service in order to pay for what I want when I want. What makes it even better is that the programs are in HD (although the current box only supports 720p output and not the preferred 1080p). Will I get an Apple TV? Probably not anytime soon. I’ll wait until I see if other networks join in and if they plan to open it up to a few more internet services, but the idea is intriguing. I also wonder what effect, if any, the Apple TV will have on DVRs and DVR services like Tivo. I guess only time will tell.