Apple TV owners got a software update pushed to their boxes this week, and Gizmodo has a review of the software complete with screenshots and a description of the rental and purchase services now offered.
I was a bit disappointed by the update at first, but like my 6 year old son said on the second day, "I'm getting used to it." Gone is the simple, single panel with left/right hierarchical navigation. That has been replaced by a 2 panel columnar navigation--left side for parent and right for it's children. Once you select the child in the right panel, that screen is taken over by a full screen interface, e.g. Movies > My Movies > Full screen movie list. Once you adjust to that change, the interface is quite intuitive actually, but I would have preferred the option to use the older UI if I prefer.
The UI for navigating your media is much simpler than that for navigating available video rentals. They've taken to using the full screen to navigate movie rentals by the movie's poster image (with titles is smaller type) which is neat at first, but less eficient than quickly scrolling a list of titles. It might be simpler for young children, being able browse through images rather than skim titles, but it would have been nice to have the option of switching between the two.
Many of the technical issues in the first release have been dealt with as well. Synced and streamable media are now seamlessly navigable--you don't have to switch between sources. I also perceived there to be less buffering time when streaming video. They've also added access to Flickr photos.
On the service end, I, like many others, think the terms of service for video no demand are not so great. The prices are on par with DVD rental, but you have to watch the video within 30 days, and once you start, you only get to watch the video for 24 hours. This might make sense to most people, but not to parents with kids who rent a video and watch it repeatedly for a while before sending it back, e.g. to Netflix. It will be interesting to see if they're ever able to come up with a subscription model more like Netflix. That would certainly get a lot more interest in my opinion.
Overall, I think the user experience and convenience offered for people who have an interest in the Apple TV is a great improvement in this release. Check out more of the interface on the article at Engadget or the Apple TV Guided tour video below:
Or in Cali Lewis' review on GeekBrief.tv