Update: Apple airs out 'world's thinnest subnotebook'

Jobs also touts movie rental downloads, new AppleTV and wireless backup hardware

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Jobs also announced that after customers updated iTunes today, they would be able to download rented movies from the online store to their PC or Mac, iPhone or iPod touch, or the revamped AppleTV. Prices for the films will range from $2.99 for backlist movies to $3.99 for the most current, with HD (high density) versions, when available, costing an additional $1. Customers will have 30 days to watch the movie before the rental expires.

"The only hitch in the whole rental scheme was that 30-days after DVD," said Gottheil, referring to what he called the one concession Jobs was forced to make to the studios. iTunes won't show a movie for rent until 30 days have passed since the picture hit DVD.

"He got pretty much what he wanted," said Gottheil, "and I think that he'll sell a ton of rentals."

The movie rental effort comes a year after Jobs debuted AppleTV, the content serving device that last year he called "a hobby" business for the company.

"I'd like to say all of us have tried. We have, Microsoft, Amazon, TiVo, VuDu, Netflix, Blockbuster, we've all tried to figure out how to get movies over the Net [and] onto the TV," said Jobs. "We've all missed. No one's succeeded yet. We tried with AppleTV. It was designed to be an accessory for iTunes and your computer. But that's not what people wanted."

To make good, Jobs announced changes to the AppleTV's software that, among other things, cuts the cord to the computer. He also cut the price from $299 to $229. People who already have an AppleTV, however, will gain all the changes, including access to movie rentals, with a free software update.

"This was a total surprise," admitted Gottheil, contradicting his earlier statement that Jobs had popped none. "The AppleTV, that was the sweetest as far as sheer elegance today. It's now an attractive solution, that lets users get content where you want it."

The revamped AppleTV -- take 2, so to speak -- went on sale at the Apple online store Tuesday, but the software upgrade won't be delivered for about two weeks, Jobs said.

Also on the Macworld agenda, was a new backup device, Time Capsule, that targets laptop users in particular. Time Capsule integrates a 500GB or 1TB drive with Apple's existing AirPort Extreme wireless access point, and relies on Mac OS X 10.5's (Leopard) Time Machine backup and restore application.

"These two things together make up Time Capsule," said Jobs. "You can back up your notebook wirelessly to Time Capsule. You can backup all the Macs in your house wirelessly to one Time Capsule." Apple will sell the two models: the 500GB version goes for $299, the 1TB version sells for $499. Both will ship next month.

Ironically, Time Machine was originally supposed to backup to any drive connected to an AirPort Extreme, but the functionality was yanked from Leopard at the last minute, reportedly due to reliability problems.

"Or maybe it wasn't reliability," countered Gottheil. "Time Machine always seemed half-baked to me, and I'm not sure that this wasn't the ultimate plan all along." Gottheil, who acknowledged that the Time Capsule's price points were high for simple storage, thought the hardware would be a profit maker for Apple nonetheless. "People are going to look at it and say, 'for $300 or $500, I don't have to worry about backing up.'"

Also expected, and delivered, were details on an iPhone update scheduled for today. Jobs ran through a quick tour of its features, virtually all of which had been leaked earlier. Among the new features of the 1.1.3 update: customizable home screens, text messaging to multiple recipients and a location finding feature in Google Maps.

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