As expected, a new Apple TV set-top box was announced at Apple's media event today.
While the exterior hardware looks nearly identical to the old model's, several new features were announced, including:
- 1080p movies and TV shows from iTunes Store
- Redesigned 1080p user interface
- Ability to re-download purchased movies through iCloud
- "Genius" recommendations for movies
- Photo Stream resolution bumped up to 1080p
- Single-core A5 chip
- 1080p output
The new Apple TV will be released on March 16 with the same $99 price as the existing model. Existing, 2nd-gen Apple TV units will be receiving the new user interface via a software update available today; however, those older units will remain limited to 720p, not 1080p, video output. (Whether 1080p resolution even matters for streaming video is a matter for debate.)
Except for the difference in resolution and the updated A5 CPU, the new Apple TV will include all the same features as the existing Apple TV, which was released in 2010.
Update: See my hands-on with the Apple TV's redesigned user interface.
In a related news, Netflix is announcing that the new Apple TV hardware will be fully capable of 1080p Netflix streaming video, and that both 2nd-gen and the new Apple TV will now allow you to purchase Netflix subscriptions through your iTunes account.