Vudu has released their version 1.3.0 software update with a whole new load of features for the set-top box. First off, Vudu now provides you with two ways to remove movies or TV shows from your box-archiving and deletion. Archiving allows you to transfer owned titles to the secure Vudu Vault which frees spaces for additional purchases. Archived titles can be found under the My Movies heading and can be redownloaded at any time for free. Deletion permanently removed titles from your Vudu meaning you'll have to pay again next time you want to watch the same title.
After a bit of a delay, Apple TV owners will be happy to know that the company released its Take 2 software update today allowing users to rent HD movies directly from their widescreen's and featuring a new and improved user interface. The Take 2 update is available to current Apple TV owners as an automatic download accessible from the "Update Software" option under the "Settings" menu. All Apple TV's manufactured as of today will have the Take 2 software pre-installed.
With the software upgrade, Apple TV user will now be able to rent over 1000 movies titles, including over 150 HD titles with Dolby 5.1 surround sound from the press of a remote button. Prices are $2.99 for catalogued titles, $3.99 for new releases, and $3.99 and $4.99 for catalogued and new release HD titles respectively.
TiVo's HD dual-tuner DVR's will now all contain a 3-in-1 TV tuner from Microtune, according to an announcement from Albert Taddiken, Microtune's Chief Operating Officer. The MicroTuner MT2131 enables the TiVo's entertainment, multimedia and interactive service capabilities, including superior HD picture and sound performance. Perhaps more beneficial is the fact the MT2131 tuner picks up both analog and digital broadcasts meaning dual compatibility with today's analog signals and the digital signals of today and after next year's digital transition.
Vudu has announced a version 1.2 software update for their set-top box; perfect timing given the expected two week delay for Apple's Take 2 update for the struggling Apple TV. The Vudu update brings 60 new HD titles for rental to Vudu users, ranging in price from $3.99 to $5.99, as well as some updated settings including instant HD, change speed limit, and constant audio setting. Instant HD uses a green triangle and HD symbol on the screen to indicate a broadband connection fast enough to download high-def titles, roughly 4 Mbps. Change speed limit offers Vudu users the option of changing their bandwidth usage as well as a recommendation for their "speed limit" setting, while constant audio setting is for users with high-end audio systems.
Vudu has also made some usability enhancements to their interface with scrollable movie browsing which brings 6 titles at a time to one screen, eliminating constant and annoying scrolling from title to title as well as a re-ordering of menus on the Find Movies Screen.
Ease-of-use and plenty of movie titles make all the difference in set-top box sales, but even with Vudu's price reduction to $295 from $399, they'll be hard pressed to compete with the new and improved Apple TV if it lives up to its expectations.
Remember when Steve Jobs promised us the Apple TV Take 2 software update during his Macworld keynote a couple of weeks back? Wondering what ever happened to that software update? Apple is now saying that the Take 2 software, which allows direct download movie rental via iTunes, is "not quite finished" and will be made available for free to current Apple TV owners "in another week or two". Jobs was definitely pressured to live up to last year's Macworld where he debuted the iPhone, a nearly impossible task, so we're not surprised he may have fibbed a little by giving us the impression the software was available for immediate release. If you're looking at purchasing a MacBook Air, however, they are shipping.
Vudu has dropped the price of their set-top box in response to the Apple TV price cuts and upgrade. Vudu has knocked 25% off the price of their set-top box effective immediately, lowering the price from $399 to $295. The company will also offer a $100 credit to anyone who purchased a Vudu in the last 30 days. First released in September 2007, the Vudu offered high-quality, PC-free movie downloads from all major studios, and now includes downloadable TV shows and high-def content as well. Of course, with Apple's recent announcement of the Take 2 upgrade for the Apple TV, Vudu has a competitor with similar set-top box functionality. The Vudu price cut still puts them at nearly $70 more than the 40GB Apple TV and a little more than $30 cheaper than the 160GB Apple model, meaning that Vudu better look at coming up with some new and improved features very soon.
Since the Apple iTunes movie rental service announcement at this month's MacWorld conference, we've wondered what Apple's strategy for the rental platform is. One theory is that Apple hopes to break into the digital movie rental sector before it takes off, and with the current popularity of the iTunes platform, now would be a good time. Another idea was that the company hoped to boost Apple TV sales by announcing movie rentals in conjunction with the release of the Take 2 software upgrade for the Apple TV. Neither theory really made complete sense to us.
With Apple's first quarter financial results announced today, the real story behind the movie service became clear. An analyst attending the press conference asked Apple CFO Peter Oppenheimer if the goal behind iTunes movie rentals was profitability or incremental Apple TV sales, and the answer was actually something we never thought of but in hindsight should have been pretty obvious.
Of the $9.6 billion in revenue from the last quarter, the music segment accounted for 50% with 22 million iPods sold while the 2.3 million Mac's sold accounted for another 47% of quarterly revenues. With such a large portion of their revenues coming from these two segments, it shouldn't be surprising that the whole point of the iTunes movie rental service is to sell more iPods and Macs. In terms of profitability, Apple only expects to be slightly above the breakeven point after expenses are deducted from total movie rental revenues.
No mention was made of forecasted sales volumes for the Apple TV, but with the Take 2 upgrade, the company feels they "have it right this time" and could possibly be looking at improved marketing and in-store displays.
Soon it looks like you'll be able to make Skype calls via your Apple TV. In an email to blog Apple TV Hacks, Brandon Holland says:
"Hey Apple TV Hacks, I have started developing a Skype Plugin that will utilize the Skype API and make the user able to make calls and send text messages to anyone on there Skype contact list. As far as calls go, I think a standard usb headset or usb phone will work. Text messages will most likely be entered using the remote and the standard text entering method. No release yet, but I will release a beta as soon as it is able to make calls. Huzzah!"
Now if you're sure if this guy's genuine or not, I assure you he is. He's also developed a GPS plugin for the Apple TV and a wireless keyboard hack. Apple TV Hacks did point out that Brandon should wait for the Apple Take 2 update before he releases the plugin, just in case Apple repeats history and it doesn't work along with every other plugin developed for the first-generation Apple TV.
Designed specifically for the IPTV and video-on-demand market, SysMaster's new Tornado M50 set-top box is full of useful features such as H.264 and MPEG-4 compression technology that deliver high-definition video all while cutting down on costly bandwidth usage. SysMaster says the M50 is revolutionary because while drastically cutting down operating expenses for IPTV service providers, subscribers are still guaranteed a high-definition picture and with the case of closed network infrastructures, up to 1080p resolution.
The Tornado M50 can also decode MPEG-2 and WMV files, delivering decoded content from the set-top box to your large, flat screen TV (hopefully) via HDMI or composite cable. End-users, that being you with the TV, can also communicate via email and chat with friends right from the TV screen. Stored media content on your PC can be streamed to your television through the box through your Local Area Network and information such as weather forecasts and even your RSS feeds can all be streamed right to your television.
SysMaster says that the Tornado M50 delivers exceptional sound via the Dolby 5.1 sound standard, meaning up to 6 channels of surround sound for the IPTV content delivered to your home theater.
The BBC is apparently considering porting their iPlayer to Mac OS X to allow downloads of their programming to the Apple TV, says NewTeeVee. The iPlayer, which launched on Christmas Day, has a combined 3.5 million program streams and downloads in less than a month, through usage by a whopping 1 million users.
BBC finds the new Apple TV attractive, especially combined with the new iTunes rental model, meaning that the networks programming can be downloaded for free, but then erased after a certain period of time. However, that would require Apple making its FairPlay DRM system accessable to the BBC, unlikely given that the company hasn't been willing to do that for anyone as of now.
While this is big news given that it includes Apple, does anyone really care?