updated 03:25 pm EDT, Wed October 12, 2011
We check the new Apple TV update
Apple was expected to post an Apple TV update along with iOS 5 on Tuesday, but most expected a dry update to bring it in line with iOS 5 features like AirPlay mirroring. Instead, it received a significant content update with NHL games, WSJ Live, and a much overdue rework of its movie trailer section. We'll give a quick tour of what's new in a hands-on.
What most users might like the most is just the redesign of the trailers section. To put it mildly, the original (largely unchanged since it arrived) was a mess: it dumped virtually all recent movie trailers in a single section, which made it a pain just to find a particular title and often difficult to even know what's genuinely new in theaters.
The new version is, simply put, fixed. Trailers are now broken off into recently added trailers, those just for upcoming movies, and for top movies on Rotten Tomatoes. It's also now possible to drill down into specific genres to find a given trailer. Apple still has an odd insistence on alphabetical order over date, but at least now you don't need to wade through three pages of trailers to find the one for the movie opening next week.
The NHL app, not surprisingly, is NHL Gamecenter and has the features you'd expect from the service. In many ways, it's very similar to the MLB.tv feature added earlier. Viewers can watch a live game if it's on and get a schedule to track new ones; it's possible to watch on-demand highlights from recent games. Scores, standings, and individual team profiles will again be familiar.
Video quality is HD and looks good for on-demand. We couldn't try live games, but NHL Gamecenter isn't cheap: depending on your country, it can cost $169 for a season pass or $20 per month.
What could ironically get the most use for some is the most niche: WSJ Live. Its contents aren't a mystery, but it makes a point of emphasizing the (also HD) live video and upcoming schedule. If you regularly want to check up on business after a day at work, it's a simple but fairly quick way to catch up without sharing from an iPad or iPhone app.
Of all the features, we only have light experience with the AirPlay and Photo Stream elements Apple has been alluding to all along. While we're waiting for devices to update and iCloud to sync, we can say Photo Stream might be a clue as to the Apple TV's future direction. It has a slightly more polished, more parallel interface for browsing photos.
From first glance, it's clear Apple is starting to see the Apple TV even more as a cloud device than it has in the past. Between three major sports leagues, the WSJ, Vimeo, and YouTube, there are now several choices for what to watch that aren't either from the iTunes Store or from Netflix. We can imagine some ardent sports fans or regular web video viewers now wanting to pick up an Apple TV, especially as AirPlay Mirroring now means you might have the option of 'cheating' by playing certain video services through an iOS device that don't have an Apple TV equivalent.