Steve Jobs launched a revamped version of Apple's (AAPL) "hobby" on Wednesday, a TV service that works over a home's Wi-Fi network so users can rent Hollywood blockbusters for $4.99 the day they are released or popular TV shows for 99 cents. A partnership with Netflix was also introduced, allowing Netflix (NFLX) customers to stream an older catalog of movies and TV shows for $8.99 a month.
The new Apple TV box will sell for $99, a drastic cut from the $229 the previous version sold for, and it is about a quarter of the size. Jobs, Apple's iconic CEO, held the Apple TV box in the palm of his hand to dramatically display it's more compact form. It will be available in about 4 weeks, Jobs said Tuesday.
The new Apple TV streaming and rental service will allow Jobs' company to compete with several other firms that are bringing streaming services into the living room. Netflix already has partnerships with Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft to stream movies over those companies' video game consoles, while numerous Blu-ray players also offer streaming through Netflix. Netflix offers the service as part of its basic $8.99 monthly service. For that, customers can rent one DVD (delivered through the mail) but stream as many movies or TV shows as they like per month.
Apple is not the only tech company making a renewed push into pay or rental TV services. Google will make its Google TV service available soon on Internet-connected TVs or through a separate set-top box. The service while allow users to search for TV programs, record favorites through a DVR-like service and include a Web browser to find video content across the web. Also, Amazon is said to be looking at a new subscription service while Hulu, which already offers free TV shows and movies through the computer, is preparing to launch a premium service for $10 month.
Netflix already offers an app for the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch that allows users to stream movies from Netflix straight to those touch-screen devices. With Apple TV, Jobs said "this is by far the best implentation of Netflix."
The Apple TV service will be built around a rental model, Jobs said. The service, which works via home Wi-Fi, will connect to iTunes straight from a TV screen. There, users can manipulate a simple menu to choose between new movie releases, older titles (which will rent for less than $4.99), Internet video services like YouTube, or Netflix.
The Apple TV service will act like a home media server, as well, as users can stream music or display photo slides shows through the box.