Lately we've promoted the notion of an updated Apple TV as one of this young year's most significant products. But we can understand how those who'd never used the thing might have been less than enamoured of the device. After all, it apparently didn't support 5.1 audio, its storage space was limited, there was the general (and incorrect) perception that it couldn't play HD content, and, most confounding of all, it depended on a computer for its care and feeding. See also: Apple TV review, January 2009.
How things have changed.
Should Steve Jobs' presentation have blotted the functionality of the 'original' Apple TV from your memory, allow me to compare and contrast that original device with the 'Take Two' update announced during Jobs’ address.
Price: Okay, easily done. The 40GB Apple TV sold for $299; yesterday Apple slashed the price tag to $229 (about £115). The 160GB Apple TV, which those of us who preferred to stream our content thought bore more storage than necessary, moved from $399 to $329 (£165); another $70 price drop. (People who invested in the early days of the Apple TV will be rewarded not by a $70 rebate but by receiving the new 'Take Two' software update as a free download in two weeks.)
Content: For the most part, you had to move content to the original Apple TV from your computer (streaming YouTube videos and previews from the iTunes Store being the exception). So, if you wanted to play music in your iTunes library, you either copied or streamed it from a computer on the network. Likewise with TV shows and movies purchased from the iTunes Store.
Speaking of content, the selection of movies you could purchase from the iTunes Store was pretty slim. The major studios simply didn't take to the iTunes Store the way Apple had hoped. Rentals, on the other hand, are another matter. The iTunes Store will have films for rent from all the major motion picture companies, a refreshing change after a year of offerings largely from Disney and its subsidiaries.
The unnecessary umbilical: With the updated Apple TV and enhanced iTunes Store, Apple has cut the cord. In a couple of week you will be able to sit on your couch and, with Apple remote control in hand, rent a movie or purchase a TV episode or hunk of music from the iTunes Store.