After announcing Apple's new foray into social networking, CEO Steve Jobs had another surprise at the company's fall product launch: the second generation of Apple TV. The new model is 1/4 of the original size and will cost $99--a big drop from its previous $229 sticker price. The biggest difference, however, is Apple's new "rent only" model. The movies and TV shows viewed on Apple TV will be streamed, not saved. Securing agreements with Fox and ABC, Apple will allow users to rent TV shows such as American Idol and Modern Family for $0.99 an episode. Netflix streaming will also be available.

Is this the shot in the arm Apple TV need to finally take off? See what tech observers are saying below the photo:

  • It's Pretty Great, writes Joshua Topolsky at Engadget: "So we had a chance to spend a little time with the new and improved (and dirt cheap) Apple TV, and we like what we see. The streaming was speedy and extremely clear during our demo, and the overall speed of the interface seemed really solid. We also learned that the box is indeed 720p (just as we'd reported earlier). Apple told us that they felt that using 720p allowed them to strike a balance between quality and bandwidth. We're guessing most people won't complain if the service works as advertised."
  • This Is Weak, writes Matt Burns at TechCrunch: "The new Apple TV, is, well, boring. Sorry, it is... Right now, I thought I should point out that there's already a well-developed product on the market that not only competes directly with the new Apple TV, but in many ways, is vastly superior: The Roku. I'm serious. I'm sure you've heard of this device before. It's been out for nearly forever and what started as the Netflix streaming box, is now a versatile streamer. It has many of the same limitations as the Apple TV -- no local network streaming and a lot of the content costs something -- but that's fine. It has more apps, or rather as they call them, channels along with featuring reviews from Rotten Tomatoes and more. Roku just hit 50 channels the other day with the addition of Vimeo. These things range from Netflix, to Pandora, to UFC, to Amazon Video on demand. There's a lot of content available through the device and you'll be presently surprised by the UI. It's Apple-good. There's even a fancy new Netflix interface."
  • I'm Not a Fan of the 'Rent Only' Model, writes Rachel King at ZDNet: "There are plenty of iTunes users who buy 'season passes' for TV shows and would rather have these digital versions forever rather than purchasing DVDs. While someone could theoretically connect his/her computer or external hard drive to the Apple TV and then stream these programs to the Apple TV, it just seems like a time-consuming and an unnecessary extra step. Personally, I would have like to have seen a hard drive on the Apple TV, but I suppose that's where the price drop comes in."

...$99 for new Apple TV makes sense. it's entirely about renting pay-per-view content. razors, blades in digital eraless than a minute ago via TweetDeck

Good question from Marco: is the new Apple TV remote Bluetooth? If not, you lose advantage of being able to hide that tiny box wherever.less than a minute ago via Tweetie for Mac

Apple TV... it's like a shit, single purpose Mac Mini for people who don't know what BitTorrent is.less than a minute ago via web

Very cool. One button push to send movies or photos from your iPad or iPhone to your Apple TV.less than a minute ago via TweetDeck