Steve Jobs might be as adept at captivating a live audience as he is at innovating game-changing media products. For nearly the first hour of Apple’s “September event” earlier today in San Francisco, Jobs made nary a mention of Apple TV. And then, just as the invite-only crowd suspected that the festivities may be ending, Jobs pulled his latest, famed “one more thing” trick, quipping that the final “hobby” (his notorious description of the company’s philosophy toward TV) was on the agenda — a $99, rental-centric upgrade of Apple TV that streams movies and TV shows in HD and is compatible with portable devices.
ABC and FOX are already on board as partners, and Netflix and YouTube streaming are also available. Jobs announced that commercial-free TV shows are 99 cents for a 48-hour rental, while first-run movies cost $4.99. The 99-cent price point is in-step with the iTunes song pricing model that has radically disrupted the music industry.
Also, because all premium content is rented and streamed (rather than downloaded), there are none of the storage capacity or management concerns that have weighed down iTunes video files in the past.
The Apple TV box itself is staggeringly small — one-fourth the size of the original model — and features three simple outputs: power, HDMI and ethernet. “Silent, cool, and tiny,” to borrow Jobs’ words. He also believes that the iTunes content repository can create a sufficiently delightful user experience to prevent consumers from viewing it as merely “a computer on their TV.”
Also, the AirPlay 4.2 that is featured as part of the iOS 4.2 due out in November will allow streaming of videos and pictures over Wi-Fi to mobile devices and vice-versa — from iPads to Apple TV. Apple TV debuts in four weeks.
Other announcements from the jam-packed program included:
– The iOS 4.1 for iPhone and iPod Touch will be released next week, highlighted by a game center (both an API and an app) designed for “multi-player games” and HD video over Wi-Fi. IOS 4.2 introduces a host of iPad enhancements, including multitasking within multiple apps (similar to the iPhone’s folder system).
– New designs for each of Apple’s three leading iPod brands — Shuffle, Nano and Touch. Nano in particular receives a slick makeover, ditching the clickwheel and moving to a small multi-touch interface.
– A re-branded iTunes 10 was unveiled (bye-bye CD logo), replete with a new social music network called Ping that creates a recommendation-driven chart of songs that an iTunes user would like based on the music preferences of that person’s “circle of friends.” The essence is musical discovery.