Apple TV

Once known as iTV, Apple TV was officially unveiled at Macworld 2007 and arrives in February. With its built-in hard drive and 802.11n wireless streaming, this little white box finally brings together iTunes and the TV.

Apple TV is a network media box that streams movies, music, TV shows, podcasts, and photos from the iTunes library on your PC or Mac to your HDTV. The box, which looks like a squashed Mac Mini and measures 7.7 by 7.7 by 1.1 inches (including an integrated power supply), connects to your TV via either HDMI or component video and audio, and wirelessly syncs content from your iTunes library so that you can enjoy it in the living room using the included remote. As promised, Apple TV will be available in February for $299; you can order it online now.

Another big question mark was the file formats that Apple TV would support, and here we have some clear answers. It goes without saying that Apple TV will work with any standard iTunes format. Audio formats include AAC, protected AAC (from iTunes Store), MP3 and variable bit rate MP3, Apple Lossless, AIFF, and WAV. But the bigger news is it supports wide-screen, high-definition video, more specifically 1,280x720 at 24 frames per second, aka 720p. That means you will be able to view movies and TV shows at better-than-DVD quality--as long as you can get them from the iTunes Store. Other video formats include H.264 and protected H.264 (from iTunes Store), 640x480 at 30 frames per second; 320x240 at 30 frames per second; and MPEG-4, 640x480 at 30 frames per second. Finally, Apple TV supports all standard photo formats, including JPEG, BMP, GIF, TIFF, and PNG; you can view photos in slide shows on your TV.

Right now, the movie selections on iTunes Store are limited to Disney and its affiliated studio brands, such as Touchstone and Miramax. But at Macworld, Apple CEO Steve Jobs also announced a deal with Paramount that makes an additional 250 movies available for iTunes, the iPod, and now Apple TV. That's a great step, but with the exception of a few "season passes," Apple still charges a flat fee for movies ($9.99 to $12.99) and TV shows ($1.99 per episode). The introduction of Apple TV makes it more apparent than ever that Apple should rapidly expand the video offering of iTunes Store, make more of it available in wide-screen HD formats, and especially provide the option for a monthly subscription fee like many of its competitors do.

Featuristic iPhone

Macworld reported that the iPhone brings together several features of the iPod, digital camera, smart phones and even portable computing to one device, with a widescreen display and an innovative input method. Featuring a new input technology called “Multi-Touch” the iPhone features only a single physical button, called “home.” You control the phone by sliding a finger across its touch-sensitive 3.5-inch display, which has a resolution of 320-by-480 pixels at 160 pixels-per-inch display.

The iPhone, which runs Mac OS X, has full iTunes integration and can seamlessly sync data with a Mac, PC, or Internet service, including music and videos from iTunes, contacts, calendars, photos, notes, bookmarks and e-mail accounts.

The 0.46-inch (11.6-millimeter) thick device weighs 4.8 ounces (135 grams) and sports a 2-megapixel camera, volume control, ring-silent switch, 3.5-millimeter headset/audio jack, SIM tray, “sleep-wake” switch, speaker, microphone, and a 30-pin iPod dock connector. The quad-band GSM (850MHz, 900MHz, 1800MHz, and 1900MHz) + EDGE phone also has 802.11b/g Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 2.0 capabilities. Jobs noted 3G capabilities will come in the future.

Three smart sensors also help control the iPhone’s behavior. A proximity sensor shuts down the display and touchscreen when the phone is held to the ear. An ambient light sensor automatically adjusts screen brightness to save power. Meanwhile, an accelerometer lets the phone know whether to display in portrait or landscape mode.

A Visual Voice-mail feature allows users to skip directly to voice mails they want to hear. An easy-to-use conference call feature lets users connect two calls with one touch of the screen. Text messaging on the iPhone is similar to iChat, with user dialogue encased in bubbles and with familiar iChat sounds, and a touch keyboard appears below for entering text.

The iPhone uses its Wi-Fi and EDGE capabilities to automatically connect to the Internet. Internet connectivity includes HTML-capable e-mail that works with any IMAP or POP3 e-mail service. Jobs also announced that Yahoo will offer free push e-mail—similar to the e-mail system on a Blackberry—to all iPhone customers.

Apple also included its Safari web browser, and the phone can use its Internet capabilities to view standard Web pages, rather than WAP versions of pages. Integrated Google Maps functionality lets users look up locations, search for local businesses, and view satellite imagery. The iPhone also supports Dashboard widgets, and Apple announced it will include weather and stock widgets.

The iPhone’s photo management features are equally interesting. Its software enables users to use a “pinching” motion to zoom in and out of pictures, and to orient pictures in standard or landscape mode. When playing music, the iPhone can automatically adjust levels up or down as calls come in.

The iPhone will come in two versions: a 4GB, $499 model and an 8GB, $599 model. Both will require a two-year contract with Cingular, the exclusive U.S. carrier. Both models will be available beginning in June from Apple Stores and from Cingular.

It looks promising to me! But when is it going to be available in other countries?

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