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Wednesday, February 25, 2009, 05:00 am PT (08:00 am ET)

Apple updates Apple TV software to version 2.3.1 [Ux3]

Apple overnight released a minor software update for owners of its Apple TV set-top media box that has thus far been revealed to include a new Network Test function and improvements when using Apple Remote for iPhone.

As of this morning, the company has yet to update its Apple TV software updates page, which has documented the changes in each new version of the software since the Apple TV Take 2 (review: part 1, part 2) update was unveiled early last year.

Instead, those installing the 2.3.1 software are reporting the update to wreak havoc on makeshift installations of the Boxee cross-platform media center software, which adds unauthorized support for a wide range of multimedia formats, online video channels, and social networking features. [Update: see Boxee's response on our blogs.]

An update to Apple TV that arrived this past November also disabled Boxee installations but did so while delivering a number of widely received features at the same time, such as AirTunes streaming from Apple TV, third-party remote control compatibility, playlists, and music volume control.

Although Apple still considers Apple TV to be one of its "hobbies," sales of the slim grey boxes rose three-fold during the 2008 calendar year. Apple customers are also expressing greater interest in the device as a movie rental system, which has compelled the electronics maker to continue to allocate R&D spending for the segment.

"It is clear the movie rental business is working and there are more customers who want to try it," Apple interim chief executive Tim Cook recently told analysts during a quarterly conference call. "We will continue to invest there, because we believe there is something there for us in the future."

User-discovered changes in Apple TV 2.3.1

One AppleInsider forum member notes that songs selected via the Apple Remote iPhone application now begin playing immediately on Apple TVs update with version 2.3.1 of the software.

Another AppleInsider forum member notes that Apple has added a Network Test function to Apple TV under Settings>General>Network, which sends diagnostic information about your internet connection to Apple. This appears to be in response to a growing number of complaints that HD downloads suddenly slowed to a snails pace for some users around the holidays.