updated 10:50 am EDT, Thu October 29, 2009
Apple TV to get iTunes LP, Extras
Apple has inadvertently hinted at a major refresh for the Apple TV through an update to its iTunes Store Terms and Conditions. The new agreement, which has shown up in iTunes 9 but isn't yet reflected on Apple's website, references an as yet unreleased Apple TV 3.0 update and says it will enable both iTunes LP and iTunes Extras, both of which so far only work on a computer. The LP standard is already known by AppleInsider to be formatted for 720p and to include HDTV metatags but hasn't had any definite migration plans until today.
The 3.0 update in itself is significant as it points to the first major refresh of Apple TV software, and possibly hardware, in about two years. Version 2.0 was first unveiled in January 2008 and since then has received only minor updates, most of which have been to either support new iTunes features or else use an iPhone or iPod touch as a remote control. It continues to use a platform based on Mac OS X Tiger despite two newer more modern operating systems having since shipped; Snow Leopard in particular is optimized for media playback with hardware video decoding on certain graphics processors and HTTP streaming that can feed online video directly, even through most firewalls.
Adding LP and Extras support would also make the Apple TV one of the first online media hubs to carry extra content beyond the central movie or TV show. Critics have often attacked services like Apple's, Vudu or the Xbox Video Marketplace for the absence of extras despite often charging as much as or slightly less than the cost of a regular DVD that often has special features.
Hardware has remained intact for longer still with the last update being a 160GB Apple TV added in May 2007; it only just received a price cut in September. Apple's interest in upgrading the media hub itself may have been given away by its decision to redesign the Apple Remote for the first time since it was unveiled with webcam-equipped iMacs in fall 2005.