Apple's Getting Serious About TV

A new software update makes the device a lot more useful

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Steve Jobs has called Apple TV a "hobby," rather than a juggernaut that could change the television watching landscape. Yet, today's new software update shows that Apple's device is more than Jobs' pet project. Today the company rolled out a new update, which allows users to stream purchased TV shows directly to their television sets, Daring Fireball's John Gruber discovered. Prior to this update, the device only gave direct access to TV shows and movies that were available to rent (not buy) on iTunes. Sure, this change means more programming available directly from your couch, but it also shows the Apple product could have more to offer the tube industry than previously thought.

Apple TV is a money-making machine. Before, users could only rent TV shows directly from their sets. If they wanted to stream purchased shows, they would have to stream from another device, or a stored file. Since Apple only convinced a few networks to get on board with the rental option, owners had few shows to choose from, explains TechCrunch's M G Siegler.

The purchased-rentals combination not only ups the selection, but it also makes it easier for you to buy straight from your couch, argues PC World's Jared Newman. "Apple is giving consumers a more convenient way to buy and watch these shows." Easier purchasing equals more money for Apple.

But what makes this update more valuable than streaming, which, as TechCrunch's Matt Burns points out, is a welcome but not novel idea, is that now users will have the choice to either buy or rent on any Apple device and stream to any Apple device.

The Apple TV is now the living room division of what’s sure to be a huge offensive by Apple. TV episodes bought on any device now are now accessible on other Apple devices and vice versa. Spend $2.99 to buy an episode of Community and it’s available on your iPhone, iPad, Mac and now Apple TV.

Welcome to the cloud. This update shows Apple's attempt to get people using iCloud, which allows Apple users to purchase content and share it across multiple platforms, without having to waste valuable hardware space.   That was quite annoying, explains PCMag's Damon Poeter.

Previously, Apple TV users had to stream iTunes-purchased TV shows from stored files on computers through either the Home Sharing feature or wirelessly using AirPlay. That meant using up local storage space, not to mention having a computer that was turned on, whereas with the new software update, users are able to stream such content directly to their Apple TVs via the Internet.

Full seasons take up a lot of space. Why would anyone download all that content just to stream it on their Apple TV. This new model, however, has given life to the device, explains Siegler. "At some point, the only way that works is in the cloud with an unlimited amount of storage."

So, putting Apple TV's content in the cloud, makes the device more useful for owners, argues Mashable's Christina Warrn. "It also means that users can stream previous purchases from an Apple TV, without having to link up to a Mac or a PC. This instantly adds more versatility to the device." The device instantly goes from an extra gadget to something actually useful.

And TV shows are probably just the beginning. "Don’t underestimate Apple’s reach now. TV shows are likely only the beginning. This cloud streaming storage method will likely work with movies as well — as long as the movie studios play ball," adds Burns.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.