When Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL) CEO Steve Jobs told the gathered throng at this year's Macworld trade show that he had four announcements to make, few, if any, would have put the failed Apple TV on the list.


Jobs first admitted that the first generation of Apple TV hadn't worked out as planned. "[It's] not what people wanted." So, Apple went back to the drawing board and came up with a new device that requires exactly zero synchronization with a computer and which is capable of delivering high-definition video upon download.

Uh-oh, TiVo (Nasdaq: TIVO).

What's more, Jobs announced movie TV rental deals with not just Fox, but every major studio, including Universal, Paramount, Lions Gate, MGM, and, of course, Disney. By February, Apple says it will have 1,000 movies for rent via iTunes and available direct to your living room via the new Apple TV, which drops in price from $299 to $229. There's only one major limitation to the device: New movies will be barred from iTunes for 30 days after DVD release to protect studios clinging to that retail-driven gravy train.

Back in the Unbox, Amazon (Nasdaq: AMZN). Enough shtick, Netflix. A new, improved Apple TV just took the easy chair.

Other innovations introduced at Macworld:

  • New iPhone software that allows the device to know where you are automatically and provide highly intuitive mapping and directions as a result. (No surprises there; this is the same feature that caused a stir before the iPhone was released.) Baby Breaker Skyhook Wireless and Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) helped to develop the new version of iPhone Maps.
  • Common software for the iPhone -- Mail, Stocks, and Maps, for example -- brought to the iPod Touch. Apple will charge existing Touch owners $19.99 to get the upgrade.
  • An AirPort networking device called Time Capsule that allows users to wirelessly back up data. Apple plans two models: one with 500 gigabytes of storage and another with 1 terabyte of storage.
  • And, finally, the MacBook Air, which Jobs called "the world's thinnest notebook." It sure looks like it. The MacBook Air runs from 0.16 inches to 0.76 inches. That's crazy thin, and yet an internal hard drive will provide up to 80 gigabytes of storage capacity. Not so swell for Dell (Nasdaq: DELL), I'll bet. (Though, to be fair, Apple's $1,799 MacBook Air could be priced out of the reach of many consumers.)

For most, the MacBook Air will be the story of today's keynote. Not for me. The Air is incredibly interesting. Certainly Intel (Nasdaq: INTC) has stepped up in a big way by providing the brains of this new Mac.

But the future of Apple is being fought in the living room, with you on the couch, remote in hand, and Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) whispering Xbox secrets in your ear. Will the new Apple TV turn your attention from Mr. Bill to Mr. Mac? That's a question I'll address here tomorrow. (Have an opinion in the meantime? Share it with me.)

Don't touch that remote! Related Foolishness awaits: