Apple appears to have included Ultraviolet-like functionality with the latest Apple TV upgrade.
Not only did Apple introduce a new Apple TV today, it also rolled out an upgrade to the current Apple TV 2s. Both the existing and new Apple TVs will share the same upgraded interface. Besides the new look and feel, there’s little in terms of functionality. The Netflix app allows you to sign up for the service directly from the Apple TV. You can use your iTunes account to pay your monthy Netflix bill.
The movies app has also been upgraded. As with TV shows, you can now stream content directly from Apple’s cloud. I did find an interesting surprise trying it out. I purchased the 2009 release of Star Trek on Blu-ray which came with a digital copy on an additional physical disc. A while ago, I loaded that digital copy on my iMac. In the earlier versions of the Apple TV software, I was able to watch it via iTunes home sharing, streaming from my iMac (and iTunes had to be running). Apple outlines the process here. However, I can now stream the movie directly from Apple’s cloud. Star Trek shows up under my purchased titles and the iCloud icon appears with it. It’s just like iTunes match for music! I doubt it goes as far as iTunes music match, grabbing any movie it finds, including ripped DVDs. What Apple is doing here seems very similar to UltraViolet. Star Trek streamed in 480P and Dolby Digital. Sweet! Check it out in the video below. Update: From what I can tell, iTunes digital copies only stream in SD from iCloud. While the Apple TV UI does report it’s 1080P from the Wish List, Search and Browsing screens, it’s actually a 480P SD encode.
Note, I also have an iTunes authorized copy of X-Men: First Class downloaded from a disc but it’s not showing up in “Purchased Movies”. However, it’s unlikely that it will show up since X-Men: First Class is not available for purchase or rental in the iTunes store. Digging a little deeper, digital copies of movies that are authorized in iTunes show up in your iTunes purchase history. Time to go load up the Blu-rays I have that came with digital copies.
Update: Just tried it with Kick-Ass and it also worked! Time for some super-hero action!! While the physical disc was needed to enter the authorization code, it showed up in iTunes movie “purchases” on Apple TV before the file was copied off the disc.
Update: And it’s also showing up on the iPhone under the iTunes app (see pic below):
Update (3/8/2012): All Things D has reported that due to a licensing conflict, Fox and Universal movies are not available in the iTunes store. HBO has exclusive rights for the time being. This is probably the reason why X-Men First Class is showing up in my purchases. Apparently, this will ultimately be worked out and I should see X-Men in the future. And all this time I thought Magneto was to blame.
So, with this software upgrade, it seems the only real difference between the new and existing Apple TV is the ability to play 1080P content thanks to an upgraded A5 CPU. Perhaps functionality down the road with take additional advantage of the A5. Given that other devices I own can do 1080P, it doesn’t make the new Apple TV a compelling upgrade for me.