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I've had the opportunity to take a couple of spins around the Apple TV "Take Two" update, a software update that brings a redefined interface and new capabilities to Apple's set-top box, including support for movie rentals from the iTunes Store, music purchases from that same Store, and access to .Mac and Flickr photo-streams.
The update is available for free to all Apple TV owners. Here's what I've found.
Updating existing Apple TVs is a simple matter. Just navigate to Settings, choose Update Software, and press the Apple Remote's Play/Pause button. The Apple TV reports that an update is available and offers you the option to Download Now or Update Later. When you choose Download Now the Settings screen shows Downloading Update, a progress bar, and the amount of time the Apple TV anticipates the download will take.
My Apple TV is connected to my network over a wireless 802.11n connection. The Apple TV suggested it would take around 11 minutes to download the update and that suggestion was on the mark.
Once the download is complete, you have the option to Update Now or Update Later. The Apple TV Update screen warns that the update will cause the Apple TV to restart several times. This is true. I counted five separate restarts before the Apple TV was ready for business. Total time to install the update was around 10 additional minutes with an Apple logo and progress bar showing much of the time.
When the update is finally installed you'll see the Apple TV's new opening animation and then the new interface.
A New Face
Apple has nicely simplified the Apple TV interface. Essentially it's made up of a box with two columns, which replace the rotating functions we saw with the original Apple TV (and that still exist in Leopard's Front Row). Within this box you see Movies, TV Shows, Music, Podcasts, Photos, YouTube, and Settings entries along the left side. To the right are commands specific to the selected entry on the left.
So, for example, if you've selected Movies you'll see Rented Movies (if you've rented a movie on the Apple TV), Top Movies, Genres, All HD, Search, Trailers, My Movies, and Shared Movies (if the Apple TV is either synced with a computer or is streaming content from a computer). Let's take a look at these entries, their commands, and what they bring to the Apple TV experience.