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Apple TV Software Update 4.3 Reaches for the Cloud

Apple has released yet another software update for its “hobby” device, the small, black, puck-like Apple TV (second generation). This latest update enables users to purchase iTunes Store TV shows directly from the device. Once a show is purchased, it is available not only on the Apple TV but on any other iOS devices (or copies of iTunes) that use the same Apple ID for purchases.

Furthermore, as a harbinger of the forthcoming iCloud service’s “buy once, enjoy anywhere” capability, TV shows previously purchased from the iTunes Store now show up on the Apple TV, whether or not iTunes is currently running on the local network to which the Apple TV is attached. With earlier versions of the Apple TV software, purchased TV shows that were stored in your iTunes library could be watched using the device only while iTunes was running on your home-network-connected computer.

For example, in the past, if I wanted to watch the latest “Doctor Who” episode I had purchased on my Apple TV, I had to make sure my Mac was awake, iTunes was running, and Home Sharing was active before I could sit back on my sofa and enjoy the Doctor’s latest adventure. Now, that show can stream directly to my Apple TV from Apple’s data center while my Mac slumbers peacefully in my home office.

Of course, on Day One of this brave new world of couch potato bliss, not all is working smoothly. My Apple TV does list most of the shows I have purchased over the years (and a few that, oddly enough, I don’t remember purchasing), but a few are missing. Moreover, when I select a purchased show, I occasionally see an “iTunes Store is currently not available” message on my TV, even though another show in my list of purchases elicits no such message. I expect such glitches to become less common as time goes on.

In addition to adding the new purchase capabilities to Apple TV, the update also provides access to the Vimeo video sharing service. Appearing under the Internet heading on Apple TV’s main menu, Vimeo allows both casual browsers and Vimeo service members to search for and view the many thousands of streaming videos that the service provides. In my brief initial test, videos loaded within a dozen or so seconds and streamed with very high quality. (Tip: if you have an iOS device, use the free Remote app that Apple provides to make typing Vimeo search strings much easier than by navigating the Apple TV’s on-screen keyboard with the
attractive, but minimalist, aluminum Apple Remote.)

Software Update 4.3 for the Apple TV arrives, as have previous updates, via the Apple TV’s Internet connection, and, like other such updates, this one should show up on the device automatically sometime within the week following its release.

However, if you just can’t wait to update your Apple TV, go to Settings > General > Update Software on the Apple TV’s main menu. The download and subsequent update process take a handful of minutes with a reasonably fast Internet connection — which you’ll also need, of course, to begin streaming high-quality video directly from Apple or Vimeo (or Netflix, or Major League Baseball, or YouTube, or any of the other streaming services available via the Apple TV).

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