During last week's D: All Things Digital conference, Apple CEO Steve Jobs and Wall Street Journal columnist Walt Mossberg chatted onstage about Apple's latest "hobby," the Apple TV. "The reason I call it a hobby," said Jobs, "is a lot of people have tried and failed to make it a business. It's a business that's hundreds of thousands of units per year but it hasn't crested to be millions of units per year, but I think if we improve things we can crack that."
One method of cracking the business comes in the form of a build-to-order option, now available, to include a 160 GB hard drive in the Apple TV instead of the relatively small 40 GB capacity in the base model. Apple claims the more capacious drive will hold up to 200 hours of video or 36,000 songs, compared to 50 hours of video and 9,000 songs on the 40 GB model. The 160 GB version costs $400; the 40 GB version remains priced at $300.
More intriguing is the addition of downloadable YouTube content, something that we suspected would appear, given that the box is already capable of downloading movie trailers and other video content (see "Apple TV: The Real Video iPod," 2007-03-26). A new YouTube menu item will lead to categories such as Featured and Most Viewed, with video streamed directly to the Apple TV. (Unofficial hacks have made it possible to view YouTube videos - and other online content - on the Apple TV since a few days after the device began shipping, but the process to implement them isn't trivial.) The capability will be available sometime in June as a free update.