Apple Reboots Apple TV

In yet another attempt to shake up the television marketplace, Apple is relaunching its moribund Apple TV service by reducing the price and adding new program options.

Introduced in 2006 to great fanfare, Apple TV has never caught on with consumers like the iPod or iPhone. But Apple CEO Steve Jobs, who admitted in the past that he had viewed Apple TV simply as a “hobby,” is confident that the new price—lowered from $229 to $99—and added program rental options will finally make the "digitally connected living room of the future" a reality.

“The new Apple TV, paired with the largest selection of online HD movie and TV show rentals, lets users watch Hollywood content on their HDTV whenever they want,” Jobs said during a company press event this week. “This tiny, silent box costing just $99 lets users watch thousands of HD movies and TV shows, and makes all of their music, photos and videos effortlessly available on their home entertainment system.”

Although the original incarnation of Apple TV never became a bona fide “hit,” (at least in Apple’s terms), the difference between 2006 and 2010 is the increasing popularity of Internet-connected TV sets, the fastest-growing segment of Internet-connected products, according to iSuppli Corp., which tags sector growth at approximately 34.1 percent over the next four years. Apple is entering a crowded market, which offers a mix of both hard drive-based and streaming boxes, including Roku and Vudu as well as the three gaming consoles from Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo, which now all offer program streaming services. However, like so many of its initiatives, the company is banking on making technology already available to consumers cheaper and more user friendly, thereby making it the “must-have” product of the coming holiday season.

Outside, the new Apple TV is palm-sized, about 80 percent smaller than its predecessor. Inside the box, the company has eliminated the 160 GB hard drive in favor of a total streaming environment. Requirements include an 802.11 b/g/n wireless network or Ethernet network, broadband Internet connection and 720p-capable HDTV set; Connection is via HDMI. Program rentals and Netflix are only available in the U.S.

The box streams first run movies from $4.99 and HD programs from ABC, Fox, ABC Family, Disney Channel and BBC America, will be available for rent through iTunes for $.99. Apple TV also streams content from Netflix, YouTube, Flickr and MobileMe, (Apple’s cloud service), as well as music, photos and videos from PCs and Macs. Apple’s new iOS 4.1 OS fixes bugs in the iOS 4 OS for the Apple Touch, iPhone and iPad and adds HD video uploading via Wi-Fi.

Apple TV will become available late this month and is now available for pre-order via Apple’s online store.

Read more about the new Apple TV at TWICE.