updated 05:15 pm EDT, Tue August 31, 2010
Late leak says Apple iTV to handle Netflix video
Apple's expected iTV media hub launch tomorrow is real and should include some form of Netflix support, a last-minute leak contended this evening. Three unidentified sources claimed Netflix's Watch Instantly would be "available" and carry its usual, separate subscription fee. Bloomberg didn't confirm whether it was an app or built-in, though it's much more likely that it would be a variant on the iPad/iPhone app and simply used as a showcase for third-party support.
The presence of a Netflix app could be a coup for Apple. Although it has declined to follow the paths of Roku and many electronics giants by building support for such services directly into its own firmware, allowing apps through the rumored iOS foundations would give Apple much wider support than what many of its competitors can offer today. The company has been criticized as restricting computing on the iPad and iPhone, but apps on the iTV would loosen up the relatively locked down world of TV set-top boxes.
A Netflix app also opens the doors for an iTV-native version of Hulu Plus, for regular TV episodes. Hulu has previously blocked its free service from TV-sized viewing, but it's been willing to offer a $10 paid subscription for Samsung and Vizio hardware and already provides a universal iOS app for handhelds.
Other expectations for the event include a new iTunes layout for the web, a new iPod touch, and possible 99-cent TV episode rentals that could again be instrumental to the iTV's success.
Apple has long considered the Apple TV a "hobby" as it doesn't believe the market yet exists for a large scale effort, but it has kept selling the box for more than three years and, at a rumored $99 price for the iTV that would replace it, could move the category into legitimate competition.